If you are a femme/nonbinary/person of colour then 2017 was a particularly hard year to stomach. But 2017 was also the year where many femme/nonbinary/people of colour shone brightly, nourished us, giving us sustenance to get through these tough times. There hasn’t been a better time to be a creative femme/nonbinary person of colour than in the here and now. The internet and social media are democratizing the arts in fundamental ways. It is giving a platform to artists who have been historically marginalized by mainstream culture.
As a creative entrepreneur and femme of colour, growing up in Australia often feels quite isolated from the rest of the world. The internet to me was my pipeline to feel connected to the world and the constellation of artists out there who I could relate to on a personal level and weren’t able to read about in art books. I could access and expose myself to the works of so many creative femmes and nonbinary people of colour and draw inspiration from their creative practices and learn lessons from their lives.
As the new year begins I want to showcase three creative femmes of colour who influenced me greatly in 2017 and the lessons their lives can teach us as we creatives of colour continue to make art in 2018.
1.Back yourself - Yayoi Kasuma
I first came across Yayoi’s works when I was studying art in my senior years of high school. However it wasn’t until recently going back and seeing her works in person at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art’s showcase of her works, that I have really been able to fully appreciate the gravity of what Yayoi’s life stood for. Yaoyi grew up in a broken family, resulting from a loveless arranged marriage and had to endure years of her mother’s emotional and psychological abuse and antagonism towards her art. Despite this as well as growing up in a conservative and restricting Japanese society, Yayoi backed her young self and her creative aspirations, made plans, moved to America and gave her dreams a shot. Alive and still painting at 88 all these years later, can you imagine a world if Yayoi had let her mother or society suppress her? Can you imagine a world without her colour and wondrous creations? Today when I scroll through Goma’s location tag on Instagram I see the joy and creativity that is unleashed by her work. Yayoi teaches us that we have to back ourselves and our creative aspirations, we can’t let others tear us down for each of us has something wondrous and beautiful to birth into this world and make it a little bit better.
2. Create alternative Visions through your Art - Alok Vaid-Menon
I was lucky enough to see Alok when they came to Brisbane in 2016. I first came across their Ted Talk where they talked about the beauty of not following conventional routes of success, title and ego. Alok talks about the value of displacing our privileged selves from the centre and re-centring the names, voices and stories of those who are marginalised by the institutional status quo. Alok’s message of creating alternative ways of being and knowing in the world resonated deeply with me, and is a message I think as creatives validates what we are trying to do. We are trying to create alternative visions of the world away from what it is today, a vision of the world with more love, colour, diversity and inclusion, possibility and hope.
3. Live your Creative Life now - Khadija Saye
I want to pay respect to Khadija Saye and send love to her family. Khadija tragically lost her life in the Grenfell fire in London in June 2017. Her works at the time being showcased at the Venice Biennale and the media described her as a “rising start” in the art world. Khadija’s photographic practices carry themes of diaspora, migration and Gambian spiritual practices. Her story effected me profoundly, here was this brilliant artist who was a year younger than me of Gambian migrant heritage, from a working class background and was pursuing her passion to be an artist, creating beautiful work and making things happen. I didn’t know Khadija before this tragic incident, but what I drew from Khadija’s story was that we can’t delay our passions or deepest creative desires. If we are creators, we must create. Life is too fickle, you don’t know for sure whether you will have time. Create now, create often and don’t take time for granted.
we can’t let others tear us down for each of us has something wondrous and beautiful to birth into this world and make it a little bit better.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My name is Tanya Sinha and I am a self taught abstract expressionist and figurative painter from sunny Brisbane, Australia.
I transform emotions and life experiences into works of art. My works are a direct expression of what I’m currently experiencing growing up as a young Indian-Australian wom*n of colour. You will see a lot of angst, frustration, curiosity, desire and hope - expressed through colour and gesture in both figurative and abstract forms.