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.

News Brief
Photo: Getty

Here's What You Need To Know About The Political Unrest In Sudan

Thousands have been protesting the Sudanese government over the weekend, supporting the military's plans for a coup.

Sudan's transitional government is in turmoil as thousands of citizens conducted a sit-in protest against them, over the weekend. A group of Sudanese citizens have called on the military to disestablish the nation's current government, as the country struggles with the greatest crisis they've seen since the end of former dictator Omar al-Bashir's controversial ruling, two years ago. The weekend's pro-military protests come as anti-military protestors took to the streets earlier this month to fight for civilian-ruled laws.

Military-aligned demonstrators assembled outside of the famously off-limits entrance of the Presidential Palace located in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum on Monday. Gatherers set up tents, blocking off access to two main intersections, cutting off access to the capital for those inside. Police attempted to wave off crowds with teargas, with Khartoum state officials saying they had, "repelled an attempted assault on the seat of government," in a statement issued Monday.

The assembly was called for by a coalition of rebel groups and political parties that support Sudan's military, accusing the civilian political parties of mismanagement and monopolizing power under their ruling. Demonstrations began on Saturday, but Sunday's gathering saw a lower attendance. According to Reuters, by Monday afternoon, thousands, between 2,000 - 3,000, had returned to voice their concerns. 52-year-old tribal elder Tahar Fadl al-Mawla spoke at the helm of the sit-in outside of the Presidential palace saying, "The civilian government has failed. We want a government of soldiers to protect the transition." Alongside a 65-year-old Ahman Jumaa who claimed to have traveled more than 900 kilometers (570 miles) from Southern region Nyala to show his support.

Protesters are demanding the appointment of a new cabinet that is "more representative of the people who participated in the December 2019 revolution that eventually led to the ousting of former president Omar al-Bashir", Al Jazeera reported from Sudan. Protesters headed towards the Presidential Palace, where an emergency cabinet meeting was being held when they were met by police forces.

Pro-civilian political parties have plans for their own demonstration on Thursday, the anniversary of the 1964 revolution that overthrew Sudan's first military regime under Ibrahim Abboud and brought in a period of democracy that the country still struggles to uphold.

Sudanese Twitter users shared their thoughts online, with many drawing similarities between the current unrest and other political crises the nation has faced.

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