Shari Jaffri works as a content specialist and also manages a side business as an illustrator under her own brand, Tragikomedi. Tragikomedi is a platform that provides a unique form of empowerment for people’s vulnerabilities, insecurities and uncertainties. Through the minimal design and abstract expressions on her products, she challenges the audience to reflect and be more mindful with parts of their identities they are usually uncomfortable with. She encourages people to think about their existence in its raw form.
The combination of her illustration and her talent for words evokes emotion across varying ethnicities, cultures and socioeconomic statuses. @tragikomedi, gives us an insight of who Shari is as a writer and illustrator. Shari strives to create a space for connection. There is an undeniable sense of togetherness and a follow-your-own-flow quality to Tragikomedi. Shari’s words are what we need today in the world!
“My sensitive side makes me a good writer and illustrator, allowing me to be more perceptive with my emotions. I use that with a lot of the stuff I do.”
Shari’s remarkable emotional intelligence allows her to understand information in a unique way. Different spectrums of emotions are always running through her mind, which enables her to interpret language in written and visual dimensions. She believes her sensitive trait is an advantage when it comes to writing and illustrating, because it makes her more perceptive of her emotions. She describes herself as an introverted child, with an ardor for books, which was fostered by her father. By default, reading became her source of solace. Reading was a skill that was instinctively acquired as a child. Illustrating, however, is something new, birthed from her friends’ encouragement and her proclivities towards doodling everywhere and anywhere she can!
Describe your creative process.
When I can’t write or create something, it helps to put my thoughts in the back-burner and just go about my normal routine. When I’m not really thinking, it’s when I’m really thinking. I let the bare ideas marinate for a while when I am commuting to work or doing the laundry and dishes. You can’t force the ideas to visit you when you want them to. To counteract that, I just go about my day and do mundane things so I am not forcing the thoughts too much.
What do you when you’re experiencing a creative burnout?
I care a lot about the aesthetics of things. I feel that it is good to be surrounded by beautiful things. To further demonstrate the way I feel, I go out of my way to surround myself in spaces that catalyze my creativity. For example, when I’m watching a good movie with good cinematography, I end up feeling really inspired and recharged. It directs me to a different thought process. Even with what I’m wearing-- putting in that extra five minutes to look better can really change the mood of my entire day.
How do you know if you are satisfied with your work, especially art?
Everything I do is about intuition. I just take a look at it and know if it is something I’m happy or satisfied with. It just clicks. I read something and come to a sense of finality. It’s something you can’t really plan for. This is hard for my creative process, because I can come up with a lot or nothing at all.
Where is your favorite place to take yourself out on a date?
Somewhere I am able to recalibrate myself. Definitely somewhere that is quiet, so I can hear myself think. It’s quite hard to find such places in a city like Kuala Lumpur, but Catcher in the Rye is a good place because the music isn’t too loud there.
Can you talk about your cats?
I think it’s obvious that I am bad at being an equal-love-kind-of-parent, because one cat gets more attention. Their names are Midnight (16 human years old), Peach (12 human years old) and Dash (6 human years old). Dash is my favorite.
Having my cats really help me. After a long day of work, I may not be in the right headspace or I might just be scrolling through my phone with no one to text or talk to. My cats can somehow sense that I’m feeling off. Their presence is so comforting. They just sit by me, and I really appreciate having that kind of relationship, where I don’t have to explain or talk too much. It’s nice to just exist together and be comfortable with the silence. Everyone should get a cat!
Who or what instigated your love for creating art?
Growing up I was very quiet, so I read a lot. Reading allowed me to discover other places and other worlds. Also, my dad is really into music, so much of what I create is based on the things I listen to. My mind is on hyperdrive when I am enjoying good music. These exposures inspired me to explore a lot of my internal side, which as a result, encouraged me to create art.
What would you one find in Shari’s playlist?
I have more than 50 playlists. My music taste is very seasonal, but the foundations of it are sad songs. If I were a thing, I would be a sad song, three minutes long. I like songs from the 80s – they put me in a good mood. Rap and hip-hop would be thrown into the mix. My favorite songs change monthly, but the majority of it would be a sad songs. It always comes back to a sad song.
“If I were a thing, I would be a sad song three minutes long.”
Why a three minute sad song?
I don’t like how people make being positive the only frame of thought, because it is normal to have bad thoughts if it helps you shape or navigate the world better. I think the main idea behind Tragikomedi is finding humor in everyday things-- even in the sad things. Sometimes you need a coping mechanism and being happy all the time is not realistic. It is still possible to make light of an unfortunate situation with a sense of humor. That’s the essence of Tragikomedi.
3 songs that will always lift your mood?
1) Too young by Phoenix
2) Float On by Modest Mouse
3) Nobody by Mitski
How do you cope with periods of sadness?
I think about it as something you need to weather through, like going through a breakup or when you’re mourning. You can’t exactly fast forward through the grieving process, because you need to grieve. So I try to let that happen, and I’ll take my time with it, but I also won’t prolong it. I think the best way is to immerse myself in what I’m going through, but actively want to move beyond it.
How do you navigate your sadness?
I journal a lot, so that’s one ritual I have. I shower after work, light some candles and turn on my playlist. I try to get into the mood to write. It doesn’t have to be exceptional writing. It can just be one page and it might not be a good page, but it’s for me. Sometimes it’s okay to create just for myself and not for an audience. It is in my journal for my own self-satisfaction, my own way to unload.
What topics do you want to explore more of in your work this year?
I am still growing a lot as a person. It’s an ever-changing thing. I put a lot of thought into my identity now that I’m turning 30 this year. I want to address less navel-gazing issues and more about the issues surrounding the landscape of awareness in sexism and mental health.
What are you most grateful in your life?
Family. I’m very lucky to have my family as a good support system. They gifted me an iPad and books when they started realising I enjoyed illustrating. I’m the only one in my family pursuing a creative career, since my siblings are consultants and one is planning to be an engineer. I can always count on them to give me honest feedback. They help me especially when I have portrait commissions. Having 4 to 5 extra sets of eyes always help!
Tell me more about the general process of the tote bag?
Coming up with the emotions were not too hard, since it’s a day to day spectrum of emotions a woman goes through. It wasn’t hard to put it on paper and quite easy to do. The tedious part was more on the editing process. Other brands tend to overly commercialize the concept of self-care like buying face masks or going to spas, but the Oh She is campaign is mindful of the mental volatility of the emotions women endure, and it is not common in the local fashion scene yet.
Check out Shari's amazing work on instagram: @tragikomedi
This article is written by Nadzareen Azizi.