Artist Interview: Zeinab Diomande

JULY 5, 2022


Fever avenue, you've never seen eyes like this before, 2022. Mixed media painting, airbrush, oil pastel, cut out stencil, yarn, collaged frame cutouts, acrylic on toned paper mounted on board.

Zeinab Diomande, a.k.a. "Z the Rat," is a Philadelphia-based, multidisciplinary artist.  Z was born in Virginia in 1999 but grew up in Abidjan on the Ivory Coast. She moved back to the US to pursue a BFA in Fine Arts with a concentration in painting and drawing at the University of Arts in Philadelphia. 

She has been featured in several individual and group exhibitions in the USA and the Ivory Coast as well as in publications like Juxtapoz Magazine and Soft Punk Mag.

Read about her creative practice, inspirations, and love for rodents below 🐀

Till the sun rises again, 2022. Mixed media painting, carpet, airbrush, acrylic and oil pastel on canvas.


Q: Tell me a bit about yourself and what brought you to art.

A: I wasn’t introduced to the arts until I was 16. One day, after seeing me sketch during class, one of my high school teachers took me aside. She had studied Photography and Philosophy in college. She told me I had artistic potential and she would be willing to help me apply to art schools.

The moment I knew I wanted to pursue art as career was after seeing “Irony of Negro Policeman” by Basquiat. I feel like a lot of us were introduced to contemporary art, or at least had an idea of what it could be like, through his work but it’s that piece that started it all for me.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Irony of Negro Policeman, 1981.

Q: Where did ‘Z the Rat’ come from?

A: “Z the Rat” was a joke in high school, I was really into little rodents like rats (still love em). My friends started calling me that and I kept it!

And all of a sudden that wormhole becomes down home, 2022. Acrylic, oil pastel, posca, glitter, collaged scan cutouts and sewing on wood panel.

Q: Where do you find inspiration?

A: I find myself heavily inspired by music. My music taste ranges from music I can mosh to, to music I can cry to. All these sounds and their complex nature really plays a lot in the way I approach art. The other thing is people. I LOVE listening to people and meeting new friends, strangers etc. My work is a bit of me and a bit of others. I always say part truth, part borrowed.

Drown soda, 2021. Acrylic, charcoal, and oil pastel on paper. 

Q: I would love to know more about the inspiration for your website, it's so nostalgic yet futuristic.

A: My website is definitely inspired by the fact that I grew up in this weird intersection/gray area of old and new, since I’m 22 turning 23 in August which makes me the older generation of Gen Z. I saw things like early internet but was too young to understand/partake and now I'm in the future with high speed wifi. It’s a very weird spot to be in and that’s what I wanted my website to represent: belonging to two different times.

I'm telling the floor I'm sorry for stepping on you, 2021. Mixed media painting, acrylic, oil pastel, colored pencils on mat board. 

Q: Lastly how would you describe your work to someone who has never seen it?

A: That’s an interesting question! I’d say think of it as anything defying the codes of painted self portraiture. By this I mean depicting Blackness in its multiplicity, making it vulnerable, redefining time and space, active yet grounded, colorful, an ode to my inner child, and playful!

Does it ring a bell?, 2022. Mixed media painting, acrylic, oil pastel, clay, glitter, posca on loose canvas. 

Hell is hot but I'm afraid of heights, 2022. Mixed media painting, rhinestones, sequin, airbrush, color pencil, and acrylic on unstretched canvas.


 Follow Z's journey on IG @ztheratt and visit her website here

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