The West African Artist on look­ing at life through a lense of sex­ual and gen­der am­bi­gu­ity.

Gay Times Magazine - - CULTURE - Art­work Ngadi Smart Words Wil­liam J Con­nolly

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 bižest 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. in­sta­­mart

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