On meeting illustrator Anne Wenkel at her studio in Wedding, I can’t help but notice that her outfit is far from the typical German attire I am accustomed to, despite the fact she is from Berlin (an unusual feat nowadays). Instead she sports a vibrantly colored, African print dress that immediately catapults me back to my days living in Peckham, south east London, which boasts a large African community. The fabric bought to make said dress wasn’t from a south London market stall, however, but the African continent itself on one of three trips Wenkel made there over a six month period.
Africa has always been a place of fascination for artist Anne Wenkel, even as a young child. She recalls a recent discovery at her parents house, “I just found at my parents place my imagination of Africa. I’d made books out of it maybe when I was in first grade or so… I was always dreaming of far away places, jungles, tigers and all that stuff.”
Works & inspiration – inside Anne Wenkel’s studio. Photo: Chris Phillips
Those dreams became a reality when she visited the continent collecting African fairytales to make a book for her diploma. After initially staying with friends, she later sought out other families to stay with – a brave feat in unknown country, surely? She replies, “I was young enough to not be scared. I think it’s just not thinking about it. Now when I think about it I didn’t even speak French; I had to learn it when I was there – I couldn’t even order anything! I don’t know, my mother was scared. I was there a few times and the first time I came back I had malaria. It was Christmas and I was standing there in church shaking with a fever. My brother’s a doctor and he was looking at me like ‘Hmm that looks familiar, let’s not tell your mum – lets say you have flu!’ I was scared she’d stop me from going there another time, which I had already planned.”
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