AN INTERVIEW WITH MAKEDA LEWIS, AUTHOR OF AVIE'S DREAMS: AN AFRO-FEMINIST COLORING BOOK
“Avie’s Dreams, an Afro-Feminist Artistic Curiosity”
An interview with Makeda Lewis, author of Avie’s Dreams: An Afro-Feminist Coloring Book
Written by: Devyn Springer
Makeda Lewis’ new book, “Avie's Dreams: An Afro-Feminist Coloring Book” is an exciting and unique artistic project; one that can grab the attention of both art enthusiasts and readers alike. The book, which carves itself into the new space of adult coloring books that are gaining popularity, is filled with drawings and poetic, Black feminist affirmations that create a sort of metanarrative that take you on a journey through Avie’s dreams.
It was raining when I met with Makeda Lewis. As we began to talk our conversation turned poetic and interesting, and the words on the pages of her book became embodied by the woman sitting across from me. “Originally the book was only going to be 15 pages long, and I planned to bind and print it myself,” Makeda told me. “I taught myself how to bind small books and planned to do that. It wasn’t until I signed my publishing contract, actually, that adding words to the pictures and making it 60 pages came in.”
The imagery in Avie’s Dreams is fascinating, and so introspective at times it feels like you’re viewing someone’s personal journal or sketchbook without permission. Many of the drawings depict Lewis’ fascination with ideas and views of her self, or, as she states, “the intersection of my femininity and Blackness is fascinating.”
“A lot of these [drawings] are self-portraits, me showing different sides of myself to the world,” Makeda said as she references specific drawings in her book. “I put it together in this stream of conscious, somewhat intentionally spiritual and almost morbid way. Many of these project what I was feeling at the time I made the specific drawings -- empty, disgusted, powerful, scared of death -- these drawings are projections of those feelings in those moments.”
As I sipped my ginger tea and enjoyed listening to her, the conversation turned dark and existential for a few moments. We discussed death, and how many of the illustrations in her book can be seen as depressing because they focus on her own mortality. “It terrifies me, death. The idea of dying, death, no longer being here, leaving everyone and everything behind - it fucking terrifies me.”
But not all of the drawings in Avie’s Dreams are sad or dark; many of them depict power, happiness, and autonomy. Makeda shared that one specific drawing was inspired by a picture she’d seen of Quvenzhané Wallis, and “the sheer determination in her face in the picture” made her want to draw herself in that same position.
Another influence Makeda notes is rapper Junglepussy, who she says was a huge inspiration in the entire creation of Avie’s Dreams. “I’m such a huge fan of hers. The way she carries herself, her confidence and talent, everything about her. And when I went to see her in concert a few months ago, I was so inspired by her power on stage and the queer, Black affirming atmosphere she created. I watched her perform and thought, ‘holy shit, I love her.’”
That might be the best thing about Lewis’ adult coloring book masterpiece: that power and presence that she described feeling during the Jungelpussy concert is present in every page of Avie’s Dreams. The affirmations written on the pages contrasted with the fascinating and personal illustrations of herself let us look into her mind, pick out the pieces of a powerful Black woman artist that she gives us, and then reflect upon ourselves.
Avie’s Dreams is a beautiful, creative narrative that follows the stream of concious of a Black woman as she navigates the world. It is raw, artistic, and unique.
Avie’s Dreams: an Afro-Feminist Coloring Book by Makeda Lewis, published by Feminist Press, is available on Amazon and at feministpress.org.