Arts + Culture

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.

KENYAJacque 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.

E A R T H A #StampSeries

A post shared by Jacque Njeri✨💫 (@fruit_junkie) on

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.

Interview

Interview: Wavy The Creator Is Ready to See You Now

The multidisciplinary Nigerian-American artist on tapping into all her creative outlets, creating interesting things, releasing a new single and life during quarantine.

A trip canceled, plans interrupted, projects stalled. It is six months now since Wavy the Creator has had to make a stop at an undisclosed location to go into quarantine and get away from the eye of the pandemic.

The professional recording artist, photographer, writer, fashion artist, designer, and evolving creative has been spending all of this time in a house occupied by other creatives. This situation is ideal. At least for an artist like Wavy who is always in a rapid motion of creating and bringing interesting things to life. The energy around the house is robust enough to tap from and infuse into any of her numerous creative outlets. Sometimes, they also inspire trips into new creative territories. Most recently, for Wavy, are self-taught lessons on a bass guitar.

Wavy's days in this house are not without a pattern, of course. But some of the rituals and personal rules she drew up for herself, like many of us did for internal direction, at the beginning of the pandemic have been rewritten, adjusted, and sometimes ditched altogether. Some days start early and end late. Some find her at her sewing machine fixing up thrift clothes to fit her taste, a skill she picked up to earn extra cash while in college, others find her hard at work in the studio, writing or recording music.

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