Maria Tiqwah is a vegan artivist who with soft pastel chalk and watercolor paint creates the world she dreams of: a beautiful and peaceful world for all living beings. She reflects, among other things, on what were the reasons going vegan and establishing Colorful Green, a green advertising agency, what is company branding, and what non-human persons can teach us.
Maria, when and why did you go vegan?
I went vegan in 2011 after seeing a film about industrial farming. I was shocked. In the beginning I just went vegetarian and thought veganism was a bit “too” much. But after learning about eggs, honey, zoos and more, I became vegan. Veganism is a way of life for me. A way to live and a way to see the world. It is a connection to the love for animals I have always had. After becoming vegan I quit my job as an art director at an advertising agency. Making advertisement for carpets and teacups just felt pointless when so many animals need help. My work felt like a waste of time. Quiting my job to follow my dream was scary, but it was also the most empowering thing! Another empowering thing was that my ad was awared with the NRC Charity Award. So, I started my own advertising agency Colourful Green and worked only for clients that shared my vision for a kinder and greener world. For example, I just made the logo, newspaper ad, Facebook templates and posters for Those Vegan Cowboys. Their mission is to make dairy without the use of cows, through fermentative production of casein proteins. I also work for clients like the Dutch politican Party for the Animals, The Vegetarian Butcher and Animal Rights. Two years ago I decided to focus more on illustration and art. It is about 50/50 advertising and art, at the moment.
What does being a vegan artivist mean to you?
Expressing my love for animals and encourage people to view animals through my eyes. I hope people will start to see animals as the lovely persons they are. Instead of a meal or entertaintment.
Let’s make the world better for animals. Together! The image of the vegan flag is free to use for anything, including commercial use, as long as it is ethically responsible and vegan. The high resolution images can be downloaded here: https://mariatiqwah.nl/en/gratis/. On Facebook you can tag @MariaTiqwahArt and on Instagram @mariatiqwahart. Tagging is not mandatory, but is very much appreciated. A licence is required for all her other drawings.
What is company branding? What are the good and potential bad sides of sustainable and green branding?
To me branding is the visual identity, so the things you can see like a logo or packaging, but also the tone of voice of text. Marketing is the overarching strategy to me; from product development to pricing to choosing one’s target audience and coming up with a story about one’s brand etc. I believe that branding is important for any business. It’s one’s face to (potential) costumers. I do use green branding. The benefit is that you can stand out from other brands and reach peole who, like you, care about nature and animals. The potential bad side is of course the green washing — when brands pretend to be green, but are not. Another thing one might consider is how small or big one wants one’s niche to be. If to make the niche too narrow, there might not be enough costumers. If to try to be for everyone, one might end up for no-one — becuse people don’t recognize themselves in the brand.
Kimberly Cross, an American branding consultant has said: “Sustainability shouldn’t be an apology positioning — expecting that people are willing to give up something for their values. As clean brands become as good or better than the alternatives, shedding sustainability as primary message will be key in crossing over from niche to mass markets. Clean energy needs to leapfrog environmental discussions and simply make products desirable.” How would you comment on that?
I believe not communicating about sustainability at all would be a missed chance. How can people consciously make more sustainable choises, if no-one ever talks about it? I do agree that green brands need to make their product desirable to be visible. But for me brands should be both: great products that are not shy about sustainability. However, the tone of voice is very important. I believe that to enthusiasticly inspire people works better than pointing a finger with a sour face. And sometimes by-the-way-we-are-also-green works better than having we-are-green as one’s only message.
What needs to happen to improve the rights of non-human persons?
I think that people first have to recognize that all animals are persons. Not just cats and dogs. It would be great if people would be able to change their perspective and think as if they where a non-human animal. And really consider what would be the best for an animal, instead of searching for justifications to keep using them. Just like women are not made for men, other animals are not made for humans. It also takes courage to admit thay your choises harm others.
What non-human persons can teach us?
Love, being in the moment, joy, relaxing. For example, I admire the cats that live with me for their ability to relax and just being content sitting and looking around. I admire the dog I lived with for her joy and enthusiasm. I admire cows and horses I met for their gentleness. And I admired the rooster I rescued when I was a kid for his loyalty and ingenuity.
What vegans, creative activists, animal activists, etc would you say have influenced you the most, and why?
Marianne Thieme and Esther Ouwehand from the Dutch political Party for the Animals have showed me that there are many different ways of activism. Before, we only had animal charities in The Netherlands, but since 2006 we have the Party for the Animals in the parliament. I am very grateful for that! There are many vegan artists I find inspiring. I discoverd the work of Philip McCulloch-Downs, Lynda Bell and Reverse Lab through The Art of Compassion Project. This is a collective founded by Leigh Sanders and has over 190 vegan artists from 28 countries. I also admire the work of vegan artist Chantal Poulin Durocher.
What are the main ways anyone can contribute to animal rights and well-being (in addition to becoming vegan)?
Find out what your talents are and use those to help animals. Don’t worry if you are shy or not a good public speaker, do what you do best — whether it is music, baking, statisticts, making people feel welcome, or whatever. And — inspired by Dr. Melanie Joy — also take a good care of yourself. Make the activism sustainabe for you, don’t burn yourself out! You can help many more animals if you can continue your activism in the long run.
Website (Colorful Green): https://colourfulgreen.nl/en