This Kenyan Artist Imagines Sending the Maasai People Into Space
We spoke with visual artist, Jacque Njeri about how her art fuses elements of the present with the past and future.
KENYA—Jacque Njeri, doesn't quite call herself an Afrofuturist artist, but has been drawn to the aesthetic for quite some time. In her latest series, #MaaSci, she has played with the idea of sending Maasai people to space.
Looking back on her inspiration for the project, she admits that she was subconsciously recreating Tatooine city from Star Wars, while simultaneously incorporating elements of her own culture.
As a Kenyan, she was immediately draw to the Maasai people: "They are strong upholders of their culture," she tells us in an email.
We spoke to her about her influences, Afrofuturism, and some of the challenges she's faced.
Check out the interview below.
OkayAfrica: Tell us little about yourself?
Jacque Njeri: I studied art and design at the University of Nairobi and focused mainly on design after graduation. I worked at an ad agency working crazy hours but moved to a job with some sort of work-life balance which allowed me a little bit of time to do passion projects. I enjoy music a lot and can almost not get anything done without it. It has taken me a couple of years to listen to my creative soul and I’m happy I’ve landed onto something I’m really passionate about.
OkayAfrica: What has drawn you to digital art?
JN: The need to channel my creative energy into something with boundless provision for expression. Design has parameters and requires a very lateral approach in its nature of problem solving.
OkayAfrica: Do you dabble in other mediums?
JN:While I sampled most medium in uni, I have a strong suit in calligraphy with an interest in linocut.
OkayAfrica: What does Afrofuturism mean to you? What drew you to this aesthetic?
JN: Afrofuturism is portrayal of our rich cultural aesthetic through tech, science and fantasy themes.
OkayAfrica: Last year you came up with the "Stamp" series, can you talk to us a little bit about the concept behind it ?
JN: The aim was to animate the characters on the stamps by retrofitting them with other pieces to create compositions. This was quite successful in four pieces: Nzumari, Blossom, Freedom and Breakthrough—then I veered into Afrofuturism with two of them.
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OkayAfrica: What are some of the challenges you have faced as a young African artist?
JN: Culturally, based on my Kenyan experience, art is yet to be sufficiently embraced and there is a very small demographic of art enthusiasts, collectives and avenues for especially budding artists to showcase their work. As a result, pursuing art is not encouraged as it is viewed as a hobby and not a career that can put food on the table.
OkayAfrica: Are you working on any projects now? What can we look forward to from you?
JN: Yes. I am currently working on a project titled "The Mau Mau Dream." It’s an imagination of what the state of affairs would have been had we not been colonized, with the Freedom Fighters and Kenyan heroes as the main subjects.