Diana Siwila is the type of person who makes everyone she meets feel like they matter.
The Edmonton artist feels this is especially important during Black History Month, a time that has special meaning for the designer and photographer.
“Black History Month for me is an opportunity to highlight all the incredible individuals in our daily life, not just the ones known worldwide,” said Siwila. “There are so many leaders who we come across who touch our lives in so many different ways. It’s our responsibility to recognize them, to highlight what they do, and let them know that they are doing amazing things.”
Those who are close to Siwila feel the same about the Zambian-born illustrator, who moved to Edmonton when she was six years old. Some adoring testimonials about her sent to Daily Hive for this article include the following:
“Diana has an uncanny ability to make new friends wherever she goes.”
“She is a leader who leads by example.”
“The most important thing about Diana is she wants to make sure that each person she comes in contact with during the day feels a little bit more love in their life after seeing her.”
Siwila’s community loves her, and she gives the love back in many ways, including through art. And to honour the hardworking people working to better the lives of others, Siwila has created a newly commissioned piece for Daily Hive, titled Black History.
“My visual piece highlights the incredible individuals working tirelessly to create pathways and opportunities for the Black community,” explained Siwila. “There are so many people who have touched the lives of others who go unrecognized for the paths they are opening up for the next generation — All while continuing to push through the darkness we see in this world.”
“You may not recognize the faces you see here. These are the faces of the coaches, teachers, nurses, doctors, mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers. These are the faces of the kids who invited you to join their group back in junior high school, the ones who stood up for you when everyone else was putting you down. These are the faces you walk past on the streets. The faces of those we may not always acknowledge. The faces of those who are working tirelessly to create change for youth, for you, for me.”
Art has always been a powerful medium for Siwila, who graduated from Edmonton’s Pixel Blue College and founded graphic design and photography studio Dedesigns. Her eye-catching style has earned her clients ranging from 2022 FIFA World Cup Germany, Nectar Craft Spirits, Canadian Home Builders Association and more.
“I’ve always been interested in art,” Siwila shared. Whether it was doodling, drawing up floor plans, or building things out of different materials. Creativity always brought me joy. Doing something creative with my life was not even a question.”
Siwila finds inspiration for her work from everything and everyone around her, especially those close to home.
“Growing up, I watched my mum making mosaics, drawing and painting, so it was something that I was always surrounded by,” said Siwila. “She was an entrepreneur herself. A teacher, a principal, a business owner, an artist, a mother, a leader, and an all-around incredible individual.
“The person I am today and the values I hold are an outcome of the example she set for me and my siblings. She held us to the highest of standards, knowing that we were capable of reaching them, even when we didn’t think we were. My mum worked very hard to ensure that we were cared for and provided with all the tools we needed to reach success.
“Having positive role models in life is so important. No matter how soon or late you realize it, the people we surround ourselves with play a huge role in who we become and how our perspectives change throughout life.”
Siwila walks the walk when it comes to being an exceptional role model. She works as the marketing and social media coordinator for registered charity Free Play for Kids, a free after-school club for 4,000 kids in need.
An alumna of Free Play during her childhood, Siwila returned as a support coach, basketball coach, and then Food Program Coordinator. The latter saw her oversee a program where children who came for the after-school club got a snack every day and also received a weekly food hamper filled with items, recipes, and more.
“You can talk about giving back or actually do it, and Diana does it,” said Tim Adams of Free Play. “She recognizes the value of what Free Play For Kids does, and the leadership and representation that she brings are so important.
“There’s a lot of chaos in what we do sometimes. The calmness and compassion that she gives keep everyone happy. Diana is a leader and a teammate to the definition of the words. You don’t find a lot of people who do both well.”
It’s clear from those who know Siwila that she is a beacon of hope for the community. Now during Black History Month, she encourages others to be the same for theirs.
“It is time to recognize and understand that we should always raise each other up,” Siwila said. “We don’t have to wait for February to come around each year to make that happen.”
“You never know where someone is at in the journey of life. What their struggles are, where they’ve been, or where they’re going. It is our responsibility to let them know that they matter. It is our responsibility to make sure that they receive that little bit of light that they may not see every day.”