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Aaliyah Rosales

Three global artists on staying true to themselves and their DIY attitudes

To celebrate the Ballantine’s Case Studies collab with artist Joshua Vides, Brazil’s Afrobapho collective, Mexican R&B star Girl Ultra, and Moroccan-Spanish artist Aaliyah Rosales showcase personal items from their limited edition briefcases

It’s been a year of watching the world through our window – a year without forming new relationships IRL, or experiencing events or art that inspire our values and creativity. As part of the collaboration between Ballantine’s Scotch whisky and Joshua Vides (known for his playful collaborations with Fendi, Nike, and Converse), we asked three radical artists with varying mediums from across the world to reflect on how they respond to the world around them in their creative practice, how they stay authentic in their work, and what they do when they are faced with a creative block.

Introducing ‘Case Studies where we take a metaphorical look inside three global artists’ limited edition Ballantine’s x Joshua Vides briefcase to find out more about who they are. 

As well as reimagining Ballantine’s iconic whisky bottle in his signature black and white style, Joshua Vides also created a matching briefcase – a tongue-in-cheek nod to the Scotch whisky brand’s prohibition backstory where the rectangular bottle design was launched to be concealed in briefcases, overcoming US prohibition laws. 

‘Case Studies feels all the more potent, as we emerge into a less lockdown-ed world with augmented ideas of our identities. The personal objects inside the briefcases range from the ordinary to the weird and wonderful but have all been curated by each artist as reflective of their creative identity and expression – Radical Brazilian art collective Afrobapho, for example, include a mannequin head, while Mexican R&B ingénue Girl Ultra packs some sentimental jewellery, and Moroccan-Spanish artist Aaliyah Rosales gives us a peek at her cartomancy decks. 

Read on to enter these artists’ intimate creative worlds, gain a glimpse into their true characters and find out why there is no wrong way to create as long as you’re making authentic work. “There is plenty of room on this planet to try millions of ideas,” says Rosales, “so just try!”


What are the five items in your briefcase that inspire your work and represent your self-expression? 

Aaliyah Rosales: To answer this question, it helps to think back to what I put in my backpack when I went to the countryside for a few days that turned into 12 weeks of isolated but ultimately happy quarantine. 

The oracle of the Moon and the oracle of the Goddesses (from my) cartomancy decks. I always travel with a notebook because I find it necessary to jot down a revealing dream, ideas, keywords, or situations I wish to manifest.

And then my phone. Almost everything I share is born in my dreams, but I edit and build it all on my phone. Going back to the analog, I don’t want to forget the books and magazines that I find in second hand bookstores in (Madrid). My relationship with the screen is to concentrate on the materialisation of an idea but when it comes to finding inspiration I am very moved by  browsing a book or a magazine. Ahug Collection’s Topcitos. Ahug was born five years ago, from a need to highlight the waste and pollution the fashion industry produces. Topcitos are born from the fabric scraps of other pieces. They are always in my bag because few pieces embrace you, inspire you, take care of you and leave you better dressed than this one.

What is it about the Ballantine’s x Joshua Vides campaign that aligns with your own artistry?

Aaliyah Rosales:  The fact that this campaign is based on the objects that are in our suitcase with us resonates a lot with my personal artistic construction, which, although it is exposed online, is born in the beauty and tangibility of those objects that are in my case and represent me. I like the authenticity with which Joshua Vides in his characteristic black and white style redesigned the bottle and the suitcase, transforming a historical fact like the dry law of the last century into a functional and artistic object.
For Ballantine’s, it’s an act of authenticity and full confidence in the path of this artist.

What do you do when you have a creative block? 

Aaliyah Rosales: My (approach) is to not fight against it or to get frustrated because these feelings feed the creative block. Blockages are often born from seeing ourselves through the ego (judgement or comparison) rather than the authenticity and uniqueness that define us. Sitting alone in nature to contemplate, putting on my favourite record, calling a friend to share our latest discoveries, opening a random book, devouring a film or simply listening to the coincidences of the universe are all part of my unblocking techniques.  

What are you working on right now? 

Aaliyah Rosales: Writing a lot, studying even more. For some years now, I have been fully immersed in the study of my origins and all the ancestral wisdom that this culture has to offer.  When I had endometriosis, my grandmother always had a trick from the village to share with me.  

My mother has an amazing gift with food and the ingredients the earth gives her. She inspires me to create and heal in new ways. 

With all this, I am working on an alchemy project where I go a step further and create products in harmony with the knowledge acquired from my family.  

What does Ballantine’s “There’s No Wrong Way” message mean to you?  

Aaliyah Rosales: I love that Ballantine’s advocates that the world is a white canvas – there is no wrong way to create your imaginary. To me it means that as long as you are authentically connected, whatever you do will have a divine meaning and purpose. There is plenty of room on this planet to try millions of ideas waiting to be brought to life. So just try!  

What’s your favourite whisky cocktail?  

Aaliyah Rosales: I love the names of whisky cocktails because they transport me to another time and space. An Algonquin cocktail or the Lynchburg Lemonade, Sazerac, or a High Ball. I’ve heard that an Old Fashioned is very much the new fashion! 


What are the five items in your briefcase that inspire your work and represent your self-expression?

Afrobapho Collective: We are a collective of 17 young LGBTIA+ black people, who live on the outskirts of Salvador, Bahia, in Brazil. We explore dance, performance, music and many other expressions in our work, so it was difficult to choose just five objects that symbolize our creativity and self-expression. 

We selected some objects that can be part of anyone’s routine, but that assume other meanings in our artistic trajectory. They are: rainbow gloves, a decorated hat, a poster with material on human rights, speakers, decorated sunglasses, and a mannequin. 

How would you describe yourselves in five words?  

Afrobapho Collective: Creative, powerful, transformative, empowering, and inspiring.

How have you stayed inspired throughout the past year?

Afrobapho Collective: 2020 was a really tough year, globally. The pandemic in Brazil has affected a large portion of the poor and black population, both in terms of health and in relation to economic and social issues. Our income comes directly from the work we do on the artistic and cultural scene, and most of the opportunities are in face-to-face performances and events.

Life in Brazil has become much more violent in the pandemic, due to the lack of action by the country’s president. Dealing with the news has severely damaged many people’s mental health. So our creative process has been undermined by the context in which we are living.

But little by little, we were resisting and trying to gain strength again. We were able to reconfigure our creativity to the context we are experiencing at the moment.

What do you do when you have a creative block? 

Afrobapho Collective: Most of the time, a creative block in Afrobapho is motivated by stress. So, we usually try to relax in some way… meditating, listening to music that we love, reading a book, watching productions that we admire, dancing. We also try not to force a creative situation, because we believe that creativity needs to be organic and have genuine motivations.

Researching and learning more about our ancestral culture also helps in unlocking the creative process. It is inspiring to see how our ancestors managed to build so much incredible stuff, with less structure than we have available today. It’s invigorating.

How do you make sure that you stay true to yourself in your work? 

Afrobapho Collective: By always revisiting our ancestry and remembering our social ideals. 

Which aspects of the Ballantine’s x Joshua Vides Case Studies campaign do you relate to?

Afrobapho Collective: We use our dissident voices and bodies to show that differences must be respected, while celebrating who we really are and breaking social standards and barriers.

Joshua Vides’ work and this campaign with Ballantine’s is creatively provocative. It goes beyond expectations and challenges perceptions – which is how we feel about what Afrobapho produces in the field of the arts. We dare in creativity which prompts different reactions in people… We use all reactions as case studies for our future work. 

Do you see any similarities between your creative approach and Joshua’s?

Afrobapho Collective: Joshua Vides’ creative approach has a connection to what we produce. His illustrations create new perceptions of reality, like his references to pop art. Afrobapho uses artistic interventions precisely to create new narratives to understand reality and society, with references from Black pop culture, to ancestry, and Afrofuturism.

What does the “There’s No Wrong Way” message mean to you?

Afrobapho Collective:  Each person has a creative process, a way of working, and all this is based on subjective and particular experiences of each individual.

What’s your favourite whisky cocktail?

Afrobapho Collective:  We are certainly fans of whisky cocktails with red fruits (mainly strawberry) or yellow fruits (mainly passion fruit). We also love cocktails with condensed milk, to sweeten our lives!


What are the five items that inspire your work and represent your self-expression?  

Girl Ultra: My instrument mainly, that’s my studio microphone an AKG 414, Ricola candies for my singing, a photo of my parents together in the 80s, my personal notebook/sketchbook, a pencil case with carbons to draw, and a yin-yang ring that is a souvenir from touring in Berlin.

How does the Ballantine’s x Joshua Vides campaign speak to your work and process? Do you see any similarities between your creative approach and Joshua’s?

Girl Ultra: We both appreciate that everlasting search for meaning in personal belongings, what we carry, and what we leave behind. Legacy is something that can continuously fluctuate and be interpreted throughout our lives. These objects I’ve curated are symbols of my self-discovery as an artist, and always helps me find the real me in the creative work I put out.

How has your creative process changed during the pandemic? Did you have to become more DIY in your approach? 

Girl Ultra: I’ve always been pretty DIY. But when it comes to inspiration for compositions and making music, I’ve really needed the external factor of overhearing strangers’ conversations, talking to an Uber driver… So I ended up working mainly with nostalgia and memories as a resource. 

When do you feel the most yourself? 

Girl Ultra: When I laugh in my head at a joke I just thought about but don’t share. 

What does Ballantine’s “There’s no wrong way” approach mean to you?

Girl Ultra: To me, that means to be resourceful in every aspect.

What would you accessorise your Ballantine’s briefcase with?

Girl Ultra: I’d be walkin’ with a full leather outfit, very Matrix-like, full of mystery.

What’s the weirdest thing you own? 

Girl Ultra: I’m kind of a hoarder when it comes to collecting memories. For example, I have the strangest lottery ticket collection from when we were touring, but I like to collect the losing ones.

What’s your favourite whisky cocktail?

Girl Ultra: On the rocks baby.

Find out more about the Joshua Vides x Ballantine’s campaign here and buy the bottle here.