Spotlight: Hafza Yusuf

Hafza Yusuf is a Somali-British textile designer, art educator and founder of Hafza Studio. Hafza and her family were forced to leave Somalia during the civil war when she was only two years old. Her love for art and her rich culture led her to pursue a career in textile design, which became a way for her to celebrate the beauty of the Somali culture. The traditional ‘hido iyo dhaqan’ fabric inspired her recent collection. 

Hafza believes in giving back to the community; she is a passionate advocate for using art as a way of healing and for personal and creative development. She started volunteering her time to teach art and textiles to Somali women in her local community. Hafza’s “Textiles helping Somali women explore their past” workshops have been highlighted by various international media outlets, such as the BBC, Inews and AFP, garnering a lot of positive attention for her work.

Name: Hafza Yusuf

Occupation/Role: Textile Designer and Entrepreneur

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Growing up, I was a creative child, and I knew I always wanted to work in the creative arts. However, I was 15-years-old when I discovered my love for textiles and fabrics in art class. I went on to study Art and Design in Sixth form and then pursued a Bachelor of Arts in Textiles Design at university.

Who were your biggest role models growing up?

My biggest role model is my hooyo. She is my rock and the most powerful woman in my eyes. I would not be who I am today without her. Alhamdulillah.

What is one thing that you would like to tell your younger self?

I would tell my younger self to enjoy the process. All too often, we just focus on our goals and where we want to be and forget to enjoy the process of becoming, especially when you have so many dreams and goals in life. I would also tell myself to celebrate the small achievements and trust Allah’s perfect plan for me because it all worked out in the end.

What was a life-changing moment you experienced that shaped you into the woman that you are today?

My family left Somalia with me as a young girl. They left everything valuable to them behind so that we could have a better life. Just thinking about that makes me work harder each day. I’m blessed to have so many opportunities to make something out of my life and to one day leave behind a legacy, which will help my family and country.

What made you pursue your current career?

The need to preserve Somali textiles and heritage. I wanted to bring light to the beautiful rich culture we have through design. After the civil war, the textiles industry and arts were lost, some completely came to an end, and I want to bring it back. Art is a massive part of our culture and my goal is to create an archive of Somali textiles for generations to come!

What is a typical day like for you?

Not one day is the same, and I love that! My day usually includes listening to an inspiring podcast while I paint and create in my art studio in London, having bridal consultations where I help design dream wedding dresses, and organize art workshops with Somali ayeeyo’s from the community. We have so much fun, and the conversations are hilarious! As well as doing everything else needed to run a successful business.

What has been the biggest obstacle in your professional life so far and how did you manage to overcome it?

Going into certain creative spaces and feeling like I don’t belong. I believe every obstacle in life can be turned around. I didn’t allow that feeling to drive me away from my values and how I carry myself in the professional field as an artist and a proud black Muslim woman. Instead, it pushed me to want to create my own space and have a studio of my own. Now I’m fortunate enough to give opportunities to young girls who dress and look like me in order to have some experience in the creative field in an environment where they feel accepted.   

Which Somali woman inspires you and why?

Hodan Nalayah , may Allah have mercy on her soul. She inspired so many people around the world including me. Her legacy will forever live on. She was a gift from Allah to Somalia and Somali people.

What advice would you give to a person pursuing your chosen career?

Creating art and designing requires a lot of patience, but if you are committed and passionate, you will succeed. For anyone who wants a career in design, I would tell them to take their time to study their craft and become an expert in the field. Never be afraid of trial and error because that is how you find your signature style as an artist or designer.  

How would you like people to remember you?

Thinking about this question got me emotional. I want to be remembered as a woman with many dreams and ambitions who loves her faith, family, friends and community.

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