The illustrator who took the world by storm at the turn of the year
We’ve all seen it. As an Instagram post. Or a profile picture. Endlessly retweeted on your twitter timeline, or extolled to the heavens by celebrity. The epitome of a viral sensation. Sometimes, something goes viral for no reason at all. But a lot of the time, something goes viral because it is fuelled by exceptional talent and its essence contains something that captivates the masses.
This is what most accurately describes the much-acclaimed 2014 piece titled ‘Self Worth’ drawn by Peniel Enchill – a wonderful summary illustration of the hopes and dreams of many as we made the big step from one year to another; a beautiful depiction which gave much-deserved attention to a wide-ranging portfolio of incredible artwork.
So who is the young lady behind the sensation? Peniel Ewurama Enchill is a 22 year old Ghanaian-born fashion designer and illustrator who moved to the UK at the age of 12 and settled in the city of Sheffield. Drawing and Illustrating has been a part of Peniel’s life for as long as she can remember. Super-gifted with artistic talent, Ms. Enchill also holds an MSc in International Fashion Retail and a BA Hons in Business Management & Economics.
A proponent of a personal ‘Afropolitan’ style, Peniel is open to various influences. Her current inspirations include Aisha Ayensu of Christie Brown (mefirighana.com/introducingaisha-ayensu/), Deola Sagoe (Nigerian haute couture fashion designer), Andrea Iyamah (custom couture & swimwear) and Kobe Adu (Illustrator and Fashion Designer) amongst many others – all whom inspire Ms. Enchill in different ways. However, one forever looms large in the landscape of her life. Her biggest Role Model is her father, Dr Stephen Enchill, with her portrait of the great man standing proud as her most favourite piece of work to date!
Scrolling down Peniel’s Instagram account, you realise that much of her work is familiar! The long-distance relationship piece is one example, and her various illustrations which have centred on style, love and ambition have gained acclaim over the years. However this past Christmas season, she published a piece which touched hearts across the globe and caused her reputation to catch fire…
As 2014 began to give way to 2015, Peniel published a piece titled ‘Self Worth’. It depicted a beautiful black woman, stepping over the obstacles of 2014 and carrying the good of the previous year into the next, embracing a bold & beautiful new year. The reaction to the illustration was mind-blowing, with the picture spreading like wildfire! “I really never expected it!” Peniel exclaims. “The response blew my mind and taught me so many lessons.” So what was the thinking behind the famous illustration? “I’m a staunch believer in goals and practically achieving them. What better way to start a new year than to set goals. The piece was meant to inspire people to evaluate the 2014 they’d had, and consider what they would want to see change in 2015.” Peniel felt that this exercise in introspection was something that people routinely underestimated. Her artwork ensured that at the end of 2014, thousands upon thousands took the time to indulge and celebrate it. However, shortly after publication, attempts were made by various people to degrade the message of the Self Worth piece – attempts which will not be glorified in this post by precise identification. Exercises which were damned in various sectors as expressions of ‘misogyny’, further examples of ‘black self-hate’ which I personally thought were inflammatory in the name of ‘trolling/banter/keeping-it-real’.
“I was initially very bothered and hurt as I spent so much time on it with the aim to inspire, but somehow, not only had that been ignored, it had become an object of ridicule and vessel of hate,” Ms. Enchill reflects. “Any artist would agree that is a hard pill to swallow. But that’s life and that’s art. No one piece of art is appreciated and interpreted in the exact same way by all its viewers.”
This whole experience has been an education for Peniel. “Every single day is a learning curve. Increased attention is not as glamorous as many may feel. It comes with a lot of responsibility!” Ms. Enchill is a one-man band at present, and so the extraordinary levels of attention via all kinds of sources can be difficult to balance at times. However, she states “It’s a challenge I gladly welcome, and I’m in the process of building a small team to help me reach my vision.
“ And a team will be needed to keep the Enchill machine ascending into the stratosphere. She plans to branch out into products such as stationery (e.g. Calendars – I can’t even begin to imagine the extreme demand there would be for Peniel Enchill calendars!), hold exhibitions and possibly run classes to give back to the community at large. In essence, her biggest desire remains true – Peniel aims to keep on being a force of inspiration, reaching out to people near and far through her illustrations.
Just like the lady in the ‘Self Worth’ picture, Peniel remains unperturbed. She is stepping boldly into a bright and beautiful 2015, and into an even brighter future which stretches beyond the borders of a piece of paper. She on a mission to keep inspiring, keep reaching out. The sky is the limit. The best is still to come.
Please follow Peniel Enchill’s Instagram account @Peniel_Enchill
Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)