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IN CONVERSATION WITH SHERIE NGIGI

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Sherie Ngigi : “Move with as much boldness and audacity as you can have.”

Published  Thursday, August   25  2022  | Sherie Ngigi   by   the-System *

What makes art political ? is it the nature of the work or is it the intention of the purveyor? I’ll wager its either or both but For Sherie Ngigi its non, she won’t describe her work as political but she says the message is hinged on activism. Sherie who operates in the fields of photography, visual arts and NFTs is keen to depict the conflicting nature of women and society and she does it in the most overt ways – Images. Its an understatement to say her work is beautiful, its more sophisticated than it appears , its extremely delicate, pure.

In conversation with the-System * , Sherie talked about her work, the process it undergoes, being a woman in an industry dominated by men, and NFT culture.

Okay so maybe for those who don’t know where you started, can you Give us a bit of your background and how you got started as an artist? Tell us about your introduction to the arts?

I have been an artist all my life, always the creative child who participated in all the drama and music festivals. And so I joined Kenyatta university for a diploma in fine art, which is where I discovered photography. In one of the uni long holidays I took a short training course on how to use a camera, mainly as an excuse for me not to travel back home to the coast. As I kept myself busy with the camera I fell more and more In love and I never looked back. I simply continued to paint and practice art using the camera as a paint brush.

How did your upbringing shape your creativity?

I think my mother is the artist that i took from in my family, she is inclined to the arts in the traditional ways of doing things such as knitting. I grew up at the coast of Kenya with a very loving and supportive family who always let me be as weird as i would like, staying indoors and playing with crayons and being glued to Art Attack. This really shaped my to the artist that i am today.

How long have you been doing art professionally and what does that mean to you , do you separate professional work from amusement or is it all the same thing to you?

I picked up a professional camera seven years ago, and even as a beginner my earliest works have been significant and shaped how may career has evolved. I have been an artist all my life but i only started working with exhibiting galleries four years ago. As a fine art photographer who looks at her work as a self diary every project i shoot is part of the bigger picture, no matter how random it seems, there’s no coincidence.

Could you tell us about your process? I’d love to understand the starting point of any given project you work on?

I think i have different processes for different projects. But the starting point most of the time would be having a vision or a certain visual in my head and then working backwards to breakdown what this visual means. A lot of my inspirations come from my environment and hence at the end of the day the pattern remains clear on why i look at my work as a self diary.

I would love to unpack more of your photography style, can you talk about the intent behind the color, materiality and style of the work?

The top things that i immediately think about when i think of my style is; covered faces, black skin, black and white, red&green and noisy edits. But I’m trying to experiment more and get out of my comfort zone of color pallets and editing styles. I do think I’ve employed different things to different bodies of work, some stories will demand color and others don’t.

In, “WRAPPED UP IN MY HEAD‘’, in one of the works we see a woman with her head completely wrapped in bandage embellished with rose flowers, also featuring a bare upper body and waist beads. Can you unpack this piece and the story behind the title for the work?

Wrapped Up in My Head is a series that was inspired by many people that I see around me who suffer from mental health issues and feel trapped on the inside even if they seem okay on the outside. I wrapped up my models’ heads in bandages to express how suffocated it could feel.

The female figure is featured heavily in your work, Is it rational or incidental? and what are you calling our attention to? what do you think society is missing?

I picked up the camera when i was 19 years old, a time in my life when i was now beginning to understand what real life is, deconstructing the fantasies i was living in as a child. The reality of the imbalance in gender inequality hit me so much at the stage as i was able to open my eyes wider to see what women around me are actually going through and what position we have been put into in the society and if this are all the options i get to choose from as i step into womanhood. With this i have always considered my work as a self diary as i try and process this journey. I think society is missing this reality checks, this conversations, so many people are wrapped up in their bubbles and fantasies of what is actually happening behind the closed mouths.

Would you consider your work to be political?

I would avoid the label political but my work does have an activism element, which may be still tied to politics but i when creating i don’t think about how it will be political or not so much, but on what it is i want to channel out.

What is it like to be a woman in this industry and how do you deal with the challenges that come with that and what are the major challenges?

I think it’s about finding your tribe, in the beginning before i found my community of artist yes i struggled to fit in with the many men overloading the photography industry but once i found my tribe of artists everything has been sailing quite well. Move with as much boldness and audacity as you can have.

Lets talk about NFTs , you are one of the early adopters and avid champions of this sphere, maybe for those who don’t understand , could you demystify that domain of the arts?

I look at NFTs as another door for artists to enter and explore. For the first time the power has been given to the artist, show what you have no matter how peculiar the gate is wide open for you. More than anything NFTs have exposed me to communities of people and artists who have had such massive positive impact on my life. I encourage people, artists especially to just come and take a look.

Murky Waters VIII

Do you think NFTs have or will ever eclipse the traditional art world?

Maybe, Maybe not, but i hope not! I do think there’s room for both worlds to exists and they both play vital roles in how we consume art, so i hope we do find a balance.

According to you Are NFTS better than real art works?

NFTs are real art works too, just in a digital format. They both serve different audiences and reasons.

Can you talk abit about the Kenyan NFT Club ?

The core of the NFT ecosystem is community, and so the Kenyan NFT club is an initiative brought together by a group of nft artists and enthusiasts to unify the voice of Kenyans and East African in the NFT space.

Great initiative , now What do you feel about Artificial intelligence in the creatives sector esp. as a visual artist are you wary of it taking over? the NFTs sector is more vulnerable to AI don’t you think?

I look at AI is just another tool or helper that artist and non-artists have been given to help them express what they want. I am very secure about my craft so i am not scared of anything taking over the other. The NFT sector is vulnerable to fraudulent people as any other systems.

Are you approaching NFTs purely as a form of expression or an added Investment? and how do you kept yourself grounded from over commercializing?

I am already a digital artist with my fine art photography, NFTs are just another extension or option for collectors who would like to collect my work in digital format. Nothing more nothing less. What do you mean by over commercializing?

In the sense that you could end up doing your work purely for commercial purpose as opposed to creating to express yourself or is capitalism at the center of your work?

Capitalism is not at the center of my work as that would imply capitalism centered themes would appear in my work. But being a professional artist implies that i a make a living off of my craft, and i don’t strive to be a starving artist, so i cast my net wider on where i can reach collectors, in galleries, online and on the blockchain.

Now going forward as we conclude we know only time will tell who made the right choice, investment-wise whether they picked the NFTs or the physical work, now personally as an avid art aficionado i’m interested – how would you advice collectors to go about collecting your work?

I would advice my collectors to pick the work that speaks to them more, whether they prefer digital works or prints.

Do you keep or sell corresponding physical Tenders of your NFT projects? or you keep every to its original form?

Yes they do exist In both forms even though I may not launch them at the same time, and yes they are sold separately

Finally. Where can collectors find your work?

https://www.artsy.net/artist/margaret-sherie-ngigi

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