Zakiyya-S.-AsheQCBCD alum Zakiyya Ashe won the national competition for the 2017-2018 Thomas J. Watson Fellowship prize of $30,000! Starting this month, her year-long project, “Hidden Minorities: Connection through Animation and Graphic Novels,” will take her through Australia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, and France. We recently talked to the Berea College grad about her project and what she hopes to accomplish. 

Midwest BSFA: What have you been up to since the last Queen City Black Comix Day last summer? Worked on any big projects?
Ashe: Right now I am still working on Haikyuu: Dream Catchers and will be finishing it up in the next two years. I recently turned it into a book and it sold out! Besides that and completing school, I will soon be traveling the world exploring minorities in cartoons.

Midwest BSFA: Why did you want to explore the topic you choose for the fellowship?
Ashe: I really like looking at how minorities are portrayed through cartoons. There are so few of them, and yet here I am, a minority in many aspects, watching said cartoons. It’s an isolating and exhausting experience but I still like the cartoons. I can’t be the only one out there that feels like this, so I’m exploring the world to find more people who feel the way I do, who are also doing something about our problem.

Midwest BSFA: What are you hoping to accomplish with your trip?
Ashe: Honestly, I’m not exactly sure. I just know I would like to meet other artists, cosplayers, and consumers who think the way I do. I want us to create a more diverse world for animation and have some discussions. Also, watch more cartoons.

Midwest BSFA: The last time we talked, you said “it’s important that we have black people start telling their characters’ stories with accuracy and giving their characters more substance than the majority we have currently exposed to us.” Do you think this project/trip will move you closer to that goal? Why and how?
Ashe: Yes, that is the idea. A lot of what I’m doing this year involves blending into other cultures and seeing how the cartoons affect the cultures I dive into. Seeing how cartoons affects different people around the world, no matter where they come from may help me create better stories that resonate with wider audiences. That’s what I hope to see. What type of stories do people from this part of the world like? What type of characters are inspiring to them? How can I use this information in my future career as an animator to create cartoons that don’t exclude or marginalize, but instead edify and inspire people to become better, whether for themselves or for the sake of other people.

Midwest BFSA: What do you want to do after you graduate? Do you think this project/trip will change that at all?
Ashe: I’m doing it now. I want to learn more languages such as Japanese and Korean to collaborate with Asian artists that create eastern style cartoons to influence western cartoons.

Midwest BSFA: Do you have a place online where you will be documenting your trip so that we can follow along?
Ashe: Bam, There you go. —>

Good luck, Zakiyya, and safe travels! 

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