The great thing about Internet is that you can encounter beautiful souls and talented artists while sitting on your sofa. That’s how I met Naledi Modupi.
Her portraits spoke to me and so I had to speak with her…Here’s what we talked about:
Can you explain why there is a compelling necessity to affirm and celebrate the beauty of blackness?
Representation is a vital thing for any social group, with the way black people have been represented throughout history into the present time, positivity, happiness, and beauty is a side of black representation that we are not exposed to. I feel like my art is necessary to communicate a side of blackness that is anti-struggle, a side that allows black people to rejoice, embrace and find a reflection of themselves within my work. Pieces that grow confidence and self-love within a group that has had difficult time finding that. Essentially, I want to create work that contributes into changing the narrative around the black race, or rather introducing a
new uplifting and empowering narrative.
Your work aims to affirm the beauty of blackness and to empower people by seeing their reflection in your artworks. Can you explain why this is so important?
N.M.: Through my art, I create work that is meant to represent all black people, of all shades, to bring unity within the race(which is something we still struggle with on top of inter-racial issues). So for every or any black person to be able to see and
recognise themselves in my work of bold, vibrant & beautiful shapes and colours, that to me, proves that we are able to appreciate and imagine ourselves as beautiful beings, without compromising the unity and representation of all black people.
Are the characters in your works real people?
N.M.: Yes, I mainly draw inspiration from photography. I follow the works of a lot of great photographers, such as Morgan Otagburuagu, Andile Bhala. Photographers who create imagery
celebrating black women, mostly African women and their varying skin tones and differences. To me, such photographers also challenge me to create artworks that could have an impact on other women, if not even greater. Being able to create work from photographs that I relate to, and perhaps only a few people who look like me can relate to, encourages me to open this feeling of pride to a wider audience of black people, mainly/mostly black women.
Your work is also a way to celebrate womanhood. Can you tell me what it means to be a woman for you?
N. M.: Through my work I aim to communicate the idea that Black is Beautiful. I create with the attempt to express and release emotions associated with the injustices and challenges faced by people who look like me, black or woman or both, achieving this by creating various contexts for my subjects through either digital illustrations or acrylic paint – showcasing and embracing black people from different aesthetic standpoints. What it means to be a woman for me – Is to be constantly
fighting and chasing a world where we can just be, a world where we can find peace in being ourselves, without the need to overcompensate, prove ourselves and fight the challenges of gender injustices. This constant fight and chase is one that we, as women struggle with every day, and I believe that my work can serve as a contribution to bring us closer to this
‘Nirvana’- for women.
Your style is a mix of different media and techniques, is there something you haven’t experimented yet but want to?
N.M.: Photography, I am absolutely obsessed with a lot of photographers and their work in representing the black culture in an incredible way. This form of art is one I would like to experiment with to further convey my message.
How would you describe the South African art scene?
N.M. :The South African art scene is becoming very welcoming to black artists, and black-art that communicates outside of the
apartheid, struggle and pain narrative… etc. This change shows that we, as black artists, are moving closers to being recognised for simply our crafts and talents, and the space is opening for us to tell any stories.
Do you have any specific plan for the future?
N.M.: I am currently working on a creative hub for talented black creatives to successfully and effectively share their craft to
world. A space that would allow for people who look like me to being to welcomed into the industry and make their contribution to world. Ultimately, my plan for the near and far future is to make is to make it easier for black women to live passionately, proudly and peacefully.