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Women in Law – Tanveer Rashid Jeewa

I believe that my biggest achievement in life has been to adapt. No matter what obstacle was thrown my way, in terms of my career or even my education, I have always adapted and kept moving.

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Women in Law - Tanveer Rashid Jeewa Asante Afrika Magazine
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At only 24 years of age, Mauritian citizen Tanveer Jeewa has broken barriers and worked extremely hard to make a name for herself in the South African legal space. From assisting refugees with translation services, to assisting fellow UCT students with academic legal problems, as well as working as a Judge’s clerk at the Constitutional Court, among many other things, Tanveer is a force to reckon with. Don’t be fooled though by the focused career lady who sounds like all she does is work 24/7. Tanveer has a heart of gold and she has the bubbliest personality, and the most contagious laugh. Volunteerism is a way of life for her and her kindness is unmatched.

She took time off her extremely busy schedule to tell us more about herself and her career choices.   

Can you tell us about your current occupation and what it entails?

I am a lawyer who is currently doing a few different things. I am a Managing Editor and Researcher at the African Legal Information Institute where I am currently working on a project to facilitate access to the Constitution and constitutional law in general. This means I am in charge of making constitutional rights available in a more accessible language, especially for people who do not have a legal background. I also do research for the African Court of Human Rights on upcoming cases and legal issues which have not been dealt with by the Court yet.

I am also a reporter for the International Law in Domestic Courts at Oxford University Press, where I identify cases in South African law where international law has been applied. I then critique the court’s approach to the law on the identified issues.

In addition to this work, I am an LLM candidate in Public Law at the University of Cape Town and a Graduate Diploma in Law student at the University of Law in the United Kingdom.

Where were you born and what kind of a family were you born into?

I was born in Mauritius, in a close-knit family of six, including my sister, parents and paternal grandparents.

Is Mauritius a conservative or liberal country? How would you rate gender equality / inequality when it comes to employment and empowerment of women and girls in your country?

While this might seem controversial, I find Mauritius to be a conservative country. We have strong ties to India, the country where most indentured labourers come from, and I have observed that these ties also come with the conservative values associated to the culture. Unfortunately, gender equality is not as far as I would hope for it to have been at this stage. Although activists work hard for issues around gender to be more mainstreamed, it often remains a taboo – especially discussions around sexuality.

On the bright side, girls have been known to perform extremely well and sometimes even better than boys in exams. Yet, there are still courses taught only to girls (for example: cooking and sewing) and some for boys only (for example: technical design).

Women in Law - Tanveer Rashid Jeewa Asante Afrika Magazine
Tanveer at the Constitutional Court

Can you describe the environment you grew up in? What activities did you enjoy engaging in during your early years? 

I was lucky to grow up in a supportive environment, my parents were very invested in my sister and I’s education. They would go to great lengths to make sure we had access to numerous tutors for us to have the best chance of obtaining good grades and studying further.

As a child, I really enjoyed reading. This might actually be an understatement since I was obsessed with our public library. I was in such a hurry for them to move me from the children’s section to the adult section because I would finally have access to lengthier non-fiction books. I still remember that the first non-fiction book I read was a book about comodo dragons. I do not remember why I picked it, but what I do remember is how proud I was when I finished the whole book – which had no images in it!

Where did you attend primary school and how was your primary school experience?

I went to Emilienne Rochecouste Government School and had a lovely experience there. My primary teacher built the foundation for my love for studying at the time. She believed in me, and always had high expectations for me. In addition to that, school was also fun because my sister attended the same institution!

The government of Mauritius provides free education to its citizens from pre-primary to tertiary levels. Since July 2005, the government also introduced free transport for all students.

en.wikepedia.org

Where did you attend high school and what did you enjoy most about high school? Which subjects did you enjoy and/or excel in most?  

I attended Queen Elizabeth College and I met a lot of good friends there. I met my best friend, who I still talk to every day, and some other friends who, although I do not talk to as often, still have a special place in my heart. I know that they will all change the world for the better, one way or another.

My favourite subject was sociology. It opened my eyes to a different way of thinking as it was the first time that I learnt about feminism, Marxism and other notions which would end up affecting my daily adult life in a concrete way. It was different from other subjects and required another level of intellectual engagement which I had craved in high school. I was never one to enjoy rote learning and sociology was the opposite.

Did you face any challenges while growing up (personal / family / communal) and if yes, how did you strive to overcome those challenges?

Growing up, I faced different challenges than most of my friends. My grandfather was old, blind and his lower body was paralysed. So often, I would take care of him. I never regretted doing that and would not change it for the world. But this often meant that I did not have as much time as my friends to study or get some rest. It was hard for me to overcome these challenges, and I also started having some health issues myself. Due to this, I would struggle to fall asleep and would be quite fatigued. In all honesty, I never overcame these challenges but instead, I just tried to do my best with the hand of cards I was dealt.

Did you always know that you wanted to be a lawyer from an early age? If not, what did you aspire to become when you grew up?

As a child, I kept on changing my mind about what my occupation would be as an adult. From a lawyer to a veterinarian or neurosurgeon, I had not made my mind up. However, my mother is an attorney, so I had been surrounded by lawyers as I was growing up. I would often hear my mother’s friends say that I would be a good lawyer because I never kept quiet. (Little did I know that is not what makes a good lawyer!) The idea of finding loopholes in arguments and being in a courtroom to present said arguments really enticed me. When I went to court with my mother and watched cross-examinations (or sometimes watching Law and Order on television), I started subconsciously picturing myself as an advocate. What convinced me that law was the way for me, was when I realized that there were going to be a lot of times in life where I will have to face authorities, or be in a position where someone else has the upper hand, and I could not stand the thought of not knowing what my legal resources would be. In my mind, I was left with no choice, I needed to become an advocate.

Tell us about your tertiary education journey; where it started, up to where you are now.

I started studying law at the age of 18 at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. At first, I personally found the journey to be tough, probably because I was not so familiar with using only English as a medium of language and instruction. Especially in law, this proved to be harder as the language used was often more complicated than your daily-spoken English. Once I became more familiar with the language, the work started getting easier.

Yet, there were still areas where I struggled and honestly, at some stages I did not even understand assignment questions. It is only when a tutor sat me down, and broke down how questions surrounding the law usually work that I understood what I had been doing wrong. This really changed how I approached law school and it made the experience much better.

After graduating with my LLB, I enrolled for an LLM in Public Law, still at the University of Cape Town. I found the engagement at post-graduate level to be even better and really enjoyed my time doing coursework and debating current issues.

“I have had men undermine me and talk over me during conversations…”

Can you tell us about the challenges you have faced (if any) of being a Muslim woman of colour in the legal fraternity?  

I unfortunately found that the challenges one faces as a woman of colour are more or less similar regardless of the country you are in. In many contexts, I have had men undermine me and talk over me during conversations. Even in conversations where I would present my own work, men would stop me and doubt me, despite having produced sound and thorough research. I can name many different instances in which this happened. My ability is often doubted, despite my qualifications and experience. I have found that this happens less often to men and even less often to white male colleagues.

How did you or how do you continue to deal with those challenges?

This has been a hard challenge to overcome because if, as a brown woman, you bring this up, you are told that you are reading too much into things or that you are being aggressive. I have learnt to be firmer and to point out when I have not finished explaining something, or when someone just repeated an idea that I have brought up. I have also learnt that women must not try and be extremely humble in spaces where they are doubted. This kind of behaviour must be nipped in the bud.

What are your biggest achievements in life so far?

I do not like pointing out to tangible things that I have done and identify them as the biggest achievement. I believe that my biggest achievement in life has been to adapt. No matter what obstacle was thrown my way, in terms of my career or even my education, I have always adapted and kept moving. Sometimes I am surprised that I have come this far because I do remember some sad moments when I genuinely thought that I would not achieve anything, not even my LLB. But regardless of how I felt, I kept moving forward and I think that in itself is my biggest achievement.

Where do you see yourself professionally in the next 5 years?

In the next five years, I want to call to the bar and finally be an advocate. This has always been my goal but it has taken long to realise. I also see myself being a PhD candidate by then, InshAllah.

Academic journeys can be very lonely and stressful and in some cases they may even lead to depression and other mental disorders. How do you deal with that kind of pressure?

I was actually diagnosed with depression in 2017 and even before that I strongly suspect that I had some mental health issues. The journey has been very hard but I believe that it was easier to deal with some of the pressure with a strong supportive system. The people that I keep close in my life are people who want the best for me, and I want the best for them too.

I was also privileged enough to secure an income so that I can now afford to see a therapist and that has been helping me tremendously to deal with the pressures that come with studying and working.

Women in Law - Tanveer Rashid Jeewa Asante Afrika Magazine
Tanveer Jeewa

Connect with Tanveer on Twitter @TanveerJeewa and on LinkedIn – Tanveer Jeewa.

Interviewed by Gugu Mpofu

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Fashion & Beauty

Timeless Wisdom From Kenya’s Fashion Magnate, Sally Karago

I cannot say that it was because of my own cleverness, it is only the grace of God and my faith in God which have brought me this far.

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Timeless Wisdom From Kenya's Fashion Magnate, Sally Karago Asante Afrika Magazine
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So calm and collected, so humble, yet so firm and confident, and no doubt so bubbly, and you can tell from her voice that she’s so caring, and extremely passionate about what she does. That is Sally Karago, self-made fashion icon from Nairobi, Kenya, and one of East Africa’s best designers. Sally made headlines when she became the first Kenyan to showcase an entirely African collection, The Turkana Boy Collection, at the New York Africa Fashion Week – New York Fashion Week in 2014. Her achievements are numerous, from showcasing at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Accra, Ghana, to receiving the Lifetime Fashion Award from African Heritage in Kenya, and being selected as the East Africa designer for the first-ever MNet Face of Africa. Sally took a moment to narrate to us her journey of how she started in the fashion industry. Read on!

Growing up in Kenya, my neighbour was a fashion designer, and I think that it is through her that I became interested in fashion. I was about 12 years old at the time, still in primary school, and I used to love to stitch and knit; I even used to stitch for my dolls a lot – chuckles. My father happened to be very fashionable, and he used to make me choose his outfits, and he would insist that I do the same for my sisters as well when we would dress up for special occasions. In a way, he definitely pushed me into the fashion industry. However, when I told him after my O’ Levels that I wanted to do fashion design at college, he definitely had a problem with that. I was so persistent though, and I went to him and told him that I had gotten a place at a local fashion school and I needed school fees, and eventually, he agreed. I was not so sure about what career path I wanted to take, but I knew for sure that whatever I chose must have something to do with clothing.

“Designing is a process – a process of researching, putting together, and making sure that the design works for its intended purpose.”

Timeless Wisdom From Kenya's Fashion Magnate, Sally Karago Asante Afrika Magazine
Sally Karago

This was back in the early 80s, and in those days fashion was not so big in Africa – we had no fashion icons to emulate, and we didn’t even have magazines to peruse through and get ideas from. During my time at that particular local fashion school in Kenya, I learnt so many skills, such as construction and pattern drafting, and I became very good at the technical aspect of the trade. We did not learn much on the design side though, and at the time, we only got ideas from watching soap operas. So when I finished my course, I then decided to attend fashion school in Europe. I applied and I was accepted at The American College in London, and that is where I learnt how to design. On my first day in class, we were told to design something, and I had no idea where to even begin – laughs.

Those were the days where I was taught that designing is a process. A lot of people think that designing is just something which comes from one’s mind, but in actual fact, designing is a process – a process of researching, putting together, and making sure that the design works for its intended purpose. For example, in Africa we have a lot of different cultures, so we can borrow one of those cultures and create something out of it, though a piece does not have to be completely traditional, we can actually make the piece very modern, and that is what you saw with the Infinix campaign which I did recently. The Infinix collection is actually based on a culture that I know in Kenya, so I borrowed some aspects of it and came up with very modern designs.

Timeless Wisdom From Kenya's Fashion Magnate, Sally Karago Asante Afrika Magazine
SK Collections

Being at school in London opened a lot of doors for me, because I actually used to work at different clothing stores as a sales-lady, and at school we were required to make collections for fashion shows. However, even in London at that time, the fashion industry was not as big as it is now. The downside of being there was that there were so many restrictions for us international students, and the competition in the industry was so stiff, so after four years of studying, I decided to head back home to Kenya after graduation with my BA in Fashion Design and Merchandising. That was around 1992, and my goal at that time was to get back home and become a haute couture designer.

When I got back home to Nairobi, fashion was still not a big thing in Kenya, and there were not even people that we could refer to as ‘fashion designers’. So there I was wondering, “Where do I even begin?” Eventually, I got myself a small place and started making clothes for people I knew, like my sisters, friends, etc., and each person who came would tell another person, and that is how the client base grew – never underestimate the power of word of mouth! The challenge I faced during that time was that many people couldn’t come to the place where I was, so I always had to go to them. This meant waiting for people at the toilets of their workplaces in order to do fittings, and through all these experiences, I kept on telling myself that “One day they will be coming to me”, – laughs.

“Whenever I showcased, word of mouth always opened more doors for me, because I always gave it my all.”

Timeless Wisdom From Kenya's Fashion Magnate, Sally Karago Asante Afrika Magazine
SK Collections Africa Fashion Week New York
Timeless Wisdom From Kenya's Fashion Magnate, Sally Karago Asante Afrika Magazine
SK Collections Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, Accra, Ghana

Another major obstacle which I faced was buying the machinery, because I didn’t have enough money so I couldn’t afford to buy the machines. Here in Nairobi, we happen to have so many Asians who are traders, so one day I visited one old Indian man who sold sewing machines and told him my story. He didn’t even know me and neither did I know him, but I guess after listening to me he saw my drive and my passion, and somehow he just believed in me, and believe it or not, he gave me 4 second-hand industrial sewing machines, and he gave me 2 years to pay for them. It is because of this that I always tell my students, “If there is a vision, there will always be provision”. I soon relocated to a better place and opened my own workshop, and now clients were coming to me, including people from different cities like Mombasa.

Timeless Wisdom From Kenya's Fashion Magnate, Sally Karago Asante Afrika Magazine
SK Collections – Turkana Collection

After that I joined a competition called the Smirnoff Fashion Show in the Professionals Category, and I was awarded the first prize. This certainly opened another door for me. Two years after that, in 1998, we had the inaugural MNet Face of Africa, and I was picked to be the designer representing East Africa. The winner of that face of Africa was Nigerian Patricia Oluchi who is now big in New York, and recently did her own show, “Africa’s Next Top Model by Oluchi”. Whenever I showcased, word of mouth always opened more doors for me, because I always gave it my all.

Timeless Wisdom From Kenya's Fashion Magnate, Sally Karago Asante Afrika Magazine
SK Collections Africa Fashion Week New York

Thereafter, I continued to make made-to-measure clothing. I continued with my love for fashion, and about 11 years ago, I founded the Mcensal School of Fashion and Design, which is currently the largest fashion school in East Africa. I actually started off with 4 instructors, and only 1 student. Currently, we usually have between 100-120 students. What I usually tell young people is that they must follow their passion, and impart their knowledge to the next generations. My desire right now is to impart all the knowledge that I have gained from being in the fashion industry all these years to the next generation. When you have a passion, take time to work on your passion and perfect your skills and your products. The quality of your products will sell your brand. For example, when I did the Infinix campaign, I actually didn’t know any of the Infinix bosses, and they found me through social media. Throughout the campaign, I only met them via Zoom, and the only people I met were the celebrities when it was time to take their measurements. So you see, the quality of your work should stand out in order for clients to put their trust in you, and there is no point in you selling yourself well yet your products are substandard. So it should never be about you, but your products. You should also make sure that your products will last a long time. I started working in fashion in my teens, and now I’m 55 and still going strong in fashion.

Timeless Wisdom From Kenya's Fashion Magnate, Sally Karago Asante Afrika Magazine
SK Infinix Mobile Kenya Collection

To find out what their passion is, I tell young people that they should identify a problem in society which really bothers them, and then work towards finding a solution for that problem. In my case, I identified the lack of fashion designers in Kenya, and I worked towards eradicating that problem. The Covid-19 pandemic has also taught us that as Africans, we should solve our own problems. For example, a lot of shops used to import clothes from Europe and China, but now that most of these services are not available, we now have to import products from around Africa. The pandemic has also taught us that instead of importing fabrics from Europe or wherever, we have to start manufacturing our own fabric.

Another thing I teach young people is that they must have multiple streams of income. Do not be dependent on only one source of income, but also, in your various ventures to make money, try and keep them related somehow. For example, I have my workshop where I tailor clothes, we also make corporate wear for hotels within Kenya and East Africa, there is the fashion school, and I also have shops selling ready-made clothes. In Kenya we have government tenders for women and the youth, I encourage the youth to apply for those as well in order to raise capital and make their dreams a reality.

Timeless Wisdom From Kenya's Fashion Magnate, Sally Karago Asante Afrika Magazine
Sally Karago (right) on Alfajiri K24 TV for the interview with the lovely host Serah N Teshna (left)
Timeless Wisdom From Kenya's Fashion Magnate, Sally Karago Asante Afrika Magazine
SK Collections

To fund the school, all my initial funding came from the workshop. I would do orders for hotels and save up the money, and eventually, I had enough to open the school. Of course my husband also chipped in, but I am proud to say that I did not have to approach a bank for a loan in order to open the school. At the moment I’m actually expanding the school, because we have to move from the commercial building where we are now because of Covid-19 restrictions, so I’m building the school at a bigger location. This time around we have partnered with a bank to build the school as it is so big, but only because we can now afford to pay back the bank.

It excites me that this is where I am now in my fashion journey, but through all this, I cannot say that it was because of my own cleverness, it is only the grace of God, and my faith in God, which have brought me this far.

Connect with Sally Karago:

Website: www.msf.co.ke

Facebook: SK Collection SHOP

As Narrated to Gugu Mpofu

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Creative Outlet

Oyedele Abiodun – Nigeria’s Master of Fine Art

His close proximity to nature and his love for outdoor features, further enhance his artistic talent.

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Oyedele Abiodun - Nigeria's Master of Fine Art Asante Afrika Magazine
Oyedele Abiodun - Nigeria's Master of Fine Art
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“I paint what I see… by arranging colours side by side to form a unified whole; to enjoy the obvious that may be consciously hidden or otherwise. As perceived, light is the key that traverse in my paintings, unveiling the beauty of nature and its components in their various values. The world as represented by our environment, is beautiful to be a unique subject matter. ”                                         

Oyedele abiodun’s artist statement
Oyedele Abiodun - Nigeria's Master of Fine Art Asante Afrika Magazine
Oyedele Abiodun Fine Art:
On The Look Out, Oil on canvas, 90 x 90cm, 2019

Born in 1991, Oyedele Abiodun Oyewumi, from Ogbomoso, Oyo State, Nigeria, is a master of fine art whose talent is unmatched. Having discovered his love for Art in high school, and even as a sciences student doing maths, physics, chemistry, etc., the kind and bubbly artist went on to studied fine art at university. Fascinated by the happenings in his environment from his teenage years, his decision to pursue art as a profession was inspired simply by his love and passion for Art. His close proximity to nature and his love for outdoor features, further enhance his artistic talent.   

Oyedele Abiodun - Nigeria's Master of Fine Art Asante Afrika Magazine
On Her Mind, Oil on Canvas, 75cm x 60cm, 2019

When asked if he is happy with the choice that he made of not pursuing a career in Sciences and following his heart to do Art, Oyedele said he is absolutely happy with his decision, and even more so because his parents support him completely, in all ways, and they never judged him or put pressure on him to do so called “stable careers” in the sciences sector, but instead, they encouraged him to follow his heart and do what he loved and enjoyed.

Oyedele Abiodun - Nigeria's Master of Fine Art Asante Afrika Magazine
Behind Her Smile, Oil on Canvas, 75cm x 60cm, 2019

Oyedele graduated from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, in 2015 with a Second-Class Upper Degree in Fine and Applied Arts and a concentration in painting. He majored in Painting and minored in sculpture. Says Oyedele, “I believe Art and science goes hand in hand, in terms of material used for the creation of art, the form of Art, and the process. Science and technology give me more understanding about how art materials are made at the factory, and how they can be improvised and produced locally. For example, one would ask, “How can we make the process of creating an art piece faster, durable and efficient?” Technology has been able to answer these questions.”

Oyedele Abiodun - Nigeria's Master of Fine Art Asante Afrika Magazine
Her Livelihood, Oil on Canvas, 90cm x 90cm, 2019

After graduating from LAUTECH, Oyedele went on to do a year of National Service, which is compulsory in Nigeria. He served in a village called Daudawa, Faskari Local Government Area, Kastina State, Nigeria, as a class teacher in a public Secondary School. “The experience was a great one”, says Oyedele, and he was able to impact and inspire the young ones positively. He also enjoyed meeting people from a different state, who have different cultures and a different identity altogether.

Oyedele Abiodun - Nigeria's Master of Fine Art Asante Afrika Magazine
Hope, 90cm x 60cm, Oil on Canvas, 2019

Upon completion of his National Service, Oyedele taught Fine Art at Gomal Baptist College for a year. His focus was to help the young ones foster the same enthusiasm he has for Art. “What excited me most was the passion my students have for Art; this was expressed through their willingness to come to my office for additional drawing class during their spare time. It was a great experience.”

Oyedele Abiodun - Nigeria's Master of Fine Art Asante Afrika Magazine
Her Voice, Her Strength, Oil on Canvas, 90cm x 75cm, 2019

Currently, the fine art creative is actually pursuing a Master’s Degree in Technology in Painting (M.Tech.) at LAUTECH, whereupon on completion, he will emerge a true “Master of Fine Art”. M.Tech is equivalent to Master of Fine Art (M.F.A.), and it holds the same qualification advantages as the M. F. A.

Oyedele says he markets his art personally via social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and an online art gallery. Says Oyedele, “The advent of online art marketing has been a great help to the emerging artists to share their work to the rest of the world. Ultimately, it has been a real lifesaver.”

Oyedele Abiodun - Nigeria's Master of Fine Art Asante Afrika Magazine
The Making Of Beauty II, Oil on Canvas, 90cm x 60cm, 2019

What he enjoys the most about being an artist is the feeling of being at peace, and the sense of fulfillment whenever he finishes a piece. According to Oyedele, one of his biggest achievements as a professional artist was having one of his pieces titled ‘Catch Them Young’, recently selected for the global conversation exhibition UN75, 2020) by the United Nations. “It was a great honor”, says the artist. He has also taken part in some exhibitions, including ‘The Other Side’ (Alliance Francaise, Ibadan, 2019), ‘Broken Earth’ (Nexus Exchange Nigeria, Lagos, 2019), and an international group exhibition, ‘Seen Form’ (HYB4 Galarie, Prague, 2020).

According to Abiodun, obstacles faced as an artist in his state and in Nigeria wholly, include low patronage and very few opportunities for emerging artists. “It is very difficult financially, because you don’t always sell a piece every day”. He thinks that to address these obstacles, provision of more funds to the Art sector can be looked into, and more opportunities can be created and availed to upcoming artists.

Oyedele Abiodun - Nigeria's Master of Fine Art Asante Afrika Magazine
Catch Them Young, Oil on Canvas, 90cm x 90cm, 2019

His parting words to a young artist who would like to study art professionally but is being discouraged by family or society are, “Do what you like doing, follow your heart, don’t give up. Consistency is the key, keep at it.”

Connect with Oyedele:

oyedeleabiodun@gmail.com

www.instagram.com/oyedeleabiodunfineart

www.facebook.com/oyedeleabiodunoyewumi

Interviewed by Gugu Mpofu

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Creative Outlet

A Chat With Abstract Artist Omega Masuku

“I look around me for inspiration; I am inspired primarily by the things that happen in my community. My work is a reflection of my reality.”

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Omega Masuku Art
Omega Masuku Art
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Hazel Lifa

Of all art forms, abstract art is definitely the most subjective, and at times misunderstood. Despite this fact, Omega Masuku has stood her ground and established herself as an abstract painter. The Bulawayo based artist was born to parents Morris Masuke, a self-employed refrigerator technician, and Viola Masuku, a stay at home mom, on February 22nd, 1999 in Mount Darwin, Harare. She currently resides in Mzilikazi, and did her high schooling at Sobukhazi High.

Abstract Art

Relating to or denoting art that does not attempt to represent external reality, but rather seeks to achieve its effect using shapes, colours, and textures.

https://www.lexico.com/definition/abstract
A Chat With Abstract Artist Omega Masuku Asante Afrika Magazine
Abstract Artist, Omega Masuku

Omega has collaborated with an impressive number of artists and participated in exhibitions internationally that have cemented her status in the Bulawayo art scene. She has worked with a number of artists like Ghislan from France, Zimbabwean artist Owen Maseko, and Charlie Bhebhe, to name just a few. Omega’s work was featured in the moving Rembrandt exhibition, which celebrated Rembrandt’s paintings’ 360th anniversary.

A Chat With Abstract Artist Omega Masuku Asante Afrika Magazine
Omega Masuku Art
A Chat With Abstract Artist Omega Masuku Asante Afrika Magazine
Omega Masuku Art

Omega has also donated her skills to painting workshops in hospitals, working with fellow artists from Scotland whom she went on to do an online exhibition with. She managed to squeeze in a few minutes in her busy schedule to talk to us, where she draws attention to the need for more female artists.

“Abstract art is like creating your own world, and making people live in it.”

How did you get started on your artistic journey?

I have to say art is a talent one has to be born with; l started seriously perusing art when l was 12 years old.

Did you attend school for your art, if so which one, and how was the experience?

Yes, l studied at Harare Polytechnical where I did Art and Design, and also Art and Visual Art. After graduating I moved to Bulawayo, where I went to the Mzilikazi Craft Centre and studied for a year, before I got called to work at the National Art gallery.

A Chat With Abstract Artist Omega Masuku Asante Afrika Magazine
Omega Masuku Art
A Chat With Abstract Artist Omega Masuku Asante Afrika Magazine
Omega Masuku Art

When did you know you wanted to do art as an actual job?

I knew in high school, in form 2. l realised that I’m always happy when I’m drawing or sketching.

What was the first-ever piece you made? What did you think about it? Do you think you did a good job?

My first piece I did was titled Broken Promises. l think it was great because I got a lot of positive feedback on the painting from my colleagues. I didn’t expect them to like it as much as they did, and that really boosted my confidence in my craft.

A Chat With Abstract Artist Omega Masuku Asante Afrika Magazine
Omega Masuku Art

When you create, what inspires your work, and what is in your artistic process?

 I look around me for inspiration; I am inspired primarily by the things that happen in my community. My work is a reflection of my reality.

Abstract Art is so subjective; how do you deal with the many different interpretations of your work?

I learnt early on that art is putting myself out there, and that people have opinions, but that shouldn’t stop me from creating. Abstract art is like creating your own world, and making people live in it.

Most African people don’t see art as a practical profession, how have you dealt with this?

It’s a bit challenging and annoying (Masuku rolls her eyes), but I have tried with a few other female artists like Nhlanhla Mathe and Zanele Masuku, to introduce art at schools. I try to support young upcoming artists like myself as much as I can. Educating parents about art also goes a long way – inviting them to exhibitions and to galleries.

A Chat With Abstract Artist Omega Masuku Asante Afrika Magazine
Omega Masuku Art

How did your parents feel about your choice, did they have other ideas for your future?

Actually, my mom didn’t want me to become an artist; she wanted me to be a doctor. It was a challenge to make her understand that art makes me happy, but she’s coming around.

Do you look up to other artists, and if so, who?

Yes, l do look up to my mentor, Gorge Masarira, an amazing artist and teacher.

How is the art scene in Bulawayo?

With the current economic struggles, it has been slow. Art is considered a luxury you know, and many don’t have a penny to spare. Before the covid19 pandemic, there were workshops where networking was done, I could do collaborations with other artists and galleries, and those were great opportunities for marketing one’s work. 

At times your work doesn’t qualify for an exhibition; for example, they give you a theme and a short amount of time to work on it, and your work doesn’t make the cut, which is always a downer, but you keep moving forward. Growing pains. 

If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you be doing instead?

I would definitely want to still be linked to art somehow, maybe as an art teacher or a professor in Visual Art.

No job is perfect, what are some of the issues you face in your profession?

Yoh! Where do I begin?! As a female in the male-dominated Bulawayo art scene, it is hard to be taken seriously. I constantly have to put myself out there, and work twice as hard to get the same attention and credit, as a guy whose technique and skill are inferior to mine. The guys in the industry are forever trying to make things about romance, but seriously, I don’t have time for that. 

Another challenge is marketing one’s work; it’s hard to get the word out there about your art. Social media is a double edged sword, because while it promotes your work, it also opens the door to theft and plagiarism. Someone can easily take your work, change a few things, and pass it off as theirs.  

A Chat With Abstract Artist Omega Masuku Asante Afrika Magazine
Omega Masuku Art

What advice do you have for other aspiring abstract artists, or artists in general?

I will say don’t let the fear strike you down, keep on painting, you will get there. Trust your talent and avoid being in competition with everyone around you. Also, collaborations are vital in art.

Omega is also a capable fine artist, but favours abstract art more. For those interested in getting in contact with the artist for a personal piece, or collaboration, or exhibitions, you can find her on Facebook and Twitter, Omega Masuku; Instagram Natasha_natie_ or email her at simzmegarts@gmail.com.

Interviewed by Hazel Lifa

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