About Hawa

As seen on Oprah Magazine!!


A self-taught artist, Hawa Diallo had worked as a restaurateur, a hair-braider, and a caregiver before discovering her towering talent and compelling need to create art in 2013, in her mid-40’s.

Hawa, a Fulani from West Africa, arrived as a refugee, having survived a genocide which seemingly took from her everything she had. But even as she sought (and received) political asylum in the U.S. with her children, she held on to her memories and her near-photographic visual recall.  The grandchild of a nomadic tribal and religious leader, Hawa’s paintings are rich with the history of her childhood and the beauty and pain of her experiences in life. Her journey has been remarkable. She paints the life she witnessed, the life she loves and the memories of villages and people who no longer exist as she knew them.  She blends what she recalls with what she sees now (as in Baobab Christmas Tree or New York Cows I). As Oprah Magazine writer, Amy Maclin, describes in the O February 2016 issue, “That’s what artists do, move through different periods of their work. Hawa’s just going through all hers at the same time.” 

A woman, a wife, a mother, grandmother, friend and caregiver, Hawa treasures the relationship among women. She works in materials that she gathers, such as tree resins, sand and matchsticks, as well as more conventional oils, acrylics, and markers. She paints on canvas, wood, and other objects. Her art is infused with history and the questions she asks herself, the beautiful stories of family and nature, human beings and animals, powerful images of joy, abundance and good, and sometimes sorrow, greed, suffering and evil.

It was during the three years she worked as a caregiver for the renowned children’s book writer and editor Charlotte Zolotow, then 95, that Hawa and the talent that lay latent and unexpected in her began to burst forth. With the encouragement of the woman she was caring for, as well as Charlotte’s daughter, the writer and writing teacher Crescent Dragonwagon, Hawa began drawing and painting in early 2013, and has never stopped. Oprah Magazine details her courageous journey, centering on Hawa’s life and art, with Crescent and Charlotte playing supporting roles.

Hawa is the mother of four grown children (including fashion designer Zaina; Hawa is pictured wearing one of Zaina’s creations in the O article). She also enjoys her three grandchildren immensely.