Designer to give Guyanese ‘fusion’ of the Caribbean

Artist and Designer Habibah Akilah Atherley has made her way back to Guyana’s shores after living for a while on one of the Caribbean islands and she now plans to give her Guyanese brothers and sisters a fusion of the Caribbean in her designs.

Over the years, Akilah, as she is popularly known, has produced some fine clothing designs, art on canvas using acrylic and has done interior decorating as well. She has been sought after also for floral arrangements and locally made jewelry and craft.

The designer who has done fashion shows in Guyana as well as in Barbados is set to put on a Fashion Show and Tea Party on July 28.

Akilah who had professionally taken up art when she was only 15 shares on how this came to be.

“I had just completed Central High and decided to take up sewing. It was my father’s idea for each of his children to learn a trade for us to fall back on if the theoretical part of our learning never worked out,” she told The Scene in an interview.

She began taking dressmaking classes at Dixon School of Dressmaking which would later be under her guidance after completion. She ran the school for a year and a half, but when she wanted to pursue a diploma in arts and contacted the E R Burrowes School of Arts, she realized that students are required to be focused and not have their hands in more than one project. She had no choice but to close down Dixon. Akilah majored in Textile Designing and minored in Painting.

Akilah’s dressmaking skill combined with her painting makes it easy for her to apply both when creating her pieces and because of her keen eye for intricate designs, she is fast attracting customers.

There are customers who would turn up at Akilah’s place with an idea of the design they hope for on a paper cutout but would sometimes find Akilah’s ideas to be more suitable, promising them a distinguished and unique look for their respective events.

“If when you finish something you did, and you cannot look at it and admire it then you didn’t do a good job.” Those were the words of Eric Atherley, her father and they have stuck with her through the years and brought a realization that her father is a wise man indeed. Akilah added to this, “You must be appreciative of your own work. Only then can others appreciate your work.”

Her inspiration in art comes from her family. Allan Atherley, her grandfather and a late veteran of World War II, was an artist and though he died long before she was born, she had the opportunity to admire his paintings hanging on the walls in her home. He had a fair bit of paintings done in abstract, but most were realistic paintings.

An uncle of hers was a collector and had a gallery with some of her grandfather’s paintings along with some from other local artists. Her sister was into art also and was always drawing cartoons. Akilah was always nearby with her book and pencil copying off her sister.

“Art is life. When you look at the whole world, it’s a canvas. Everything and everyone is unique and beautiful in their own way. Art is an escape from the world as well. It can be a form of an outlet and gives peace of mind. Some people rely on music, but I rely on my art,” Akilah said.

Apart from the financial aspect of being in the art biz, the artist has gained more. “My work is therapeutic and relaxes me. It has enhanced the person I was and helped me to build social relationships and be able to network.” Most of her customers have come through GuyExpo and various fashion shows. She pulled off her first fashion show in 2004 and another called ‘Fashion Fusion’ that was held in 2006 at Side Walk Café. She later made an appearance with her designer pieces at the Barbados Fashion Week.

Her peak times would usually be the Christmas and August seasons. Christmas would bring interior decorating jobs while August, being the height of emancipation-related activities, would see persons arriving at Akilah’s for their one-of-a-kind designer pieces to simply stand out at events.

Over the years Akilah has faced various challenges in Guyana but the most difficult was getting sponsorship for events. Today her customers are from all across Guyana but also include people from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, St Lucia, Grenada and Barbados.

The designer has learnt the best techniques from trying different methods. She hopes to expand her business, ‘Akilah’s Creative Expressions’ someday where she will create job opportunities.

Come July 28, Akilah will launch her clothing line ‘Redemption’ which she promises is an explosion of the African culture. Also on showcase will be jewelry and other craft from local artists. The evening is being billed as memorable night of culture inclusive of poetry and dancing. The venue is to be announced.

Akilah’s creations involve hand painting, embossing designs on fabric, stenciling, tie-dying, and batik. You can contact Akilah at Akilah’s Creative Xpressions on Facebook or via phone on 670-0696.

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