The West African Artist on looking at life through a lense of sexual and gender ambiguity.
With a passion for examining beauty, gender and sexuality outside of traditional confines, West African artist Ngadi Smart is a star on the rise in the art world. Using photography and illustration as her medium, she has a keen ability to dissect universal themes no matter which culture or subculture they inhabit. Her key focus always remains on African representation and amplifying the experiences of African people.
Where do you draw your inspiration from for your work?
My work tends to be centered around portraying strong women and powerful, gender ambiguous figures, feminism issues, as well as female and male sexual power and the dynamics in that. I always want to show how society’s expectations of women, as well as men, can be inverted and to deconstruct mainstream society’s preconceived views of what the definitions of ‘normal’, ‘beautiful’, and ‘right’ are.
Do you like to predict what the audience will take from each piece?
I don’t like to focus too much on others’ opinions of my pieces while I’m working on them, but it’is always fascinating to hear what people think once they are finished.
Do you ever find the social and political environment around you affects the work you create?
Definitely! Nina Simone said it best: “You can’t help it. An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.” I think artists even do it subconsciously sometimes. I always try to create work that challenges those themes from the first question, and those are themes that are important parts of our society. If I can make a small change in someone’s perception, through my work and through representation as a working African female artist, then that’s a great thing.
Representation within arts is key. What hurdles do you face when navigating the art and creative world?
Being a creative woman of African descent who chooses to express her ideas and challenge societal perceptions of what is ‘right’ has forced a lot of my work to be female centered; their experiences, strengths, versatility and beauty, especially women of African descent. To continue this portrayal of women and their versatility in a world that doesn’t always make space for this visually, feels almost like madness sometimes, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I think the biest challenge is being seen and heard, and your work being as valued as others, but thankfully now social media and a new consciousness within the creative world is starting to change that for the better.
And how does the LGBTQ community and queer life appear in your work?
My work is almost always centered around sexual and gender ambiguity, and I love it and wish for it to remain so.
Tell us about a moment in your world that brings you particular joy?
Getting my work published.
And finally, tell us what’s next for you?
I also photograph and will be travelling to NYC to exhibit my photography for World Press Photo, at NYC’s Photoville festival. instagram.com/ngadismart