Having grown up in Réunion, an island in the Indian Ocean and east of Madagascar, Aurélia Durand was surrounded by the richness of multiculturalism – a melting pot for people for people from all around the world. She recalls the mix of different cultures – those from Europe, Africa and Asia – filling her with a curiosity that’s been instilled in the illustrator from early on. “It has made me curious,” she tells It’s Nice That of the formative experiences.
She moved to Paris to study product design at university and it was there that a growing interest in minimal design sprouted. In pursuit of this aesthetic, Aurélia ventured to Copenhagen for a master’s degree, interested in working with sustainability. But once she was there, she found herself responding to the muted tones of Danish design doused in dulcet blues, greys and blacks. Bursts of colour infiltrated her style and she developed the illustrative aesthetic that we know and love Aurélia for today.
A vivid celebration of diversity, the artist amplifies Afro-descendents’ voices and their joyful, proud and empowered experiences. Currently based in Paris, Aurélia’s colour-filled illustrations uplift themes and benefits of diversity, which is “something that’s a big part of my work and life,” she adds on the matter. Surrounded by a community that supports these ideas – “a neighbourhood with a lot of diversity and afro culture” – Aurélia’s dynamic illustrations are a delight to experience while its content is concerned with the importance of representation.
This focus began back in university for the illustrator, she tells us, “when I realised women of colour were underrepresented in our study books.” She wanted to depict women with afro hair and braids through her work, a predominant way of connecting with her heritage. Aurélia explains: “My mother is for the Ivory Coast and my father is from France. I was born in France and went to the Ivory Coast as a child. My mum told me a lot about our culture through hair, but also food. I didn’t see this elsewhere in France and because I have a mixed cultural background, it’s important for me to explore my identity through my work. To find out who I am and where I’m from.”
Expressing this through the vibrancy of colour, atmosphere and personality is key to Aurélia’s unifying work. Creating most of her illustrations through digital mediums, so far, she has worked across AR, animation, paintings, murals and editorial in her characterful practice. While her clients include the likes of Adidas, Evian, House of African Art, Facebook and Magnum, just to name a few, most recently she has illustrated the book cover of This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do The Work by Tiffany Jewell and released at the beginning of this year.
As for what she’s been making during lockdown, Aurélia’s organised an auction to help the NGO Malala Fund founded by the activist Malala Yousafzai in support of female education worldwide. Despite the lockdown, for the artist, “I can’t help making art, it’s a need, it makes me feel happy.” Elsewhere, she’s worked with Magnum to create a virtual exhibition to raise funds for women cocoa farmers impacted by Covid-19. Titled Imagined Pleasures, Aurélia was asked to tell her story through visuals. In turn, she used an old picture that her took when visiting the Cathedral of Yamoussoukro in the capital of the Ivory Coast. “This is part of my story,” she finally goes on to say, “my parents come from two countries and I have an attachment to the Ivory Coast. It felt natural to work on this campaign.”
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.