Azrah Osman is an illustrator whose work is so uniquely personal to her own life that it almost cannot be viewed independent of it. In 2013, just as she was about to start her Honours Degree in Illustration at Stellenbosch University, Azrah was diagnosed with a rare brain abnormality. After months of denial, she finally underwent the surgery she so dreaded. Her illustrations reflect this struggle with her situation and coming to grips with her own mind.
After learning about her condition, Azrah created Lulu, a fictitious character who represents her. Lulu is a little girl who experiences sharp lightning bolts of pain in her head, while she is trying to work at school or at home playing. The aches are a direct comparison to the symptoms that Azrah was presented with. Then there are the tiny elephants – symbolic of her Arnold Chiari Malformation – who, along with a whole menagerie of animals, turn her mind to chaos. In these images, Azrah wanted to express the feelings and insecurities that arose from her abnormality. Eventually, however, she came to a place of acceptance and, like Lulu, makes friends with her elephants.
“Drawing as a Treatment for Trauma: A Journey through Brain Surgery” and “Lulu & the tiny Elephants” served as the final component of her Honours Degree. The exploration of her pain inspired both her research article topic and her storybook. Azrah will graduate with her Honours in Illustration at the end of March.