Students explore identity through the Creative Arts course at ALA

Dr. Sarah KgagudiDirector of Creative Arts and Events at ALA shares how the Creative Arts course at ALA provides an introspective platform for students to examine identity through different mediums. 

About the course 

In our first unit of the academic year, we discuss identity, and what it means to create art that is meaningful in relation to our identities. As a class, we each learn how to explain our art journeys to ourselves and to each other. Often, in interactions with our audiences or in interviews and other professional conversations, people may ask us how we got to where we are today as artists, and where we hope to go. It is important to be able to explicate this both through words and through our art.  

Each student works to identify the medium (or media, if lucky) of art that they feel most comfortable in. Through recognizing the goals of this course, they can situate the course in their career trajectories and propel towards their own personal goals. 

Finally, we discuss the very important conversation of plagiarism and what this looks like in both art and artistic writing. Creative Idea 1 is the first formative assessment of the academic year, evaluating each student’s understanding of our conversations throughout the week. It challenges students to create a unique piece of art that reflects their identity. This piece of art is created on either Microsoft Paint or an equivalent.  

Below we explore a few examples of student art produced this year.

Niaina Kalina Raoelina- Artist Statement:  
I was introduced to art at a very young age. From coloured pencils to guaches, I loved giving life to my creations. When I think about it, all children are naturally brought to art but the desire to pursue it is the sole factor of growth in the field. A desire that did not reside within me, despite my love for art. Hence, I have been sketching here and there but never have I ever been intentional in that growth. However, the shift in my mindset happened when one day, I realized that I was incapable of transferring the image that was clear in my mind to the paper. I was struck and disoriented, but I knew the only way is to start being intentional in that growth.  

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That is the purpose of this piece: to start an intentional growth. This piece, which summarizes my current state, is made from a sketch, inspired by a Shutterstock image, to a digital art. The hand and the baby plant already in a portion of land are the center of the piece. The background, all white, symbolizes the need for creation. It refers to a moldable place (the world) that is desperate of creation, in need to be shaped. The hand represents all the structures in place that became a powerspace for me– a platform that enhances growth and maturity. They support me in going higher, to a place where I will be able to thrive and give me the sufficient additional nutrients. As it comes out of the nothingness, the brown skin colour starts forming (at the wrist) and represents my hybrid identity of being a Malagasy (Melting pot identity). The portion of land symbolises the small community in which I am rooted in and where it all started, where life started in me. This portion of land that provided for me from the beginning will always be bound to me. Then, the stem of the plant with the leaves — myself — all in green, represent the growth from all the food that I have received since being a seed, internally and externally. The fresh baby plant, full of hope and energy, is ready to grow and stick its roots in a field. She is ready to build her foundations to stand strong and tall, ary Ho Tonga Hazo (and will become a tree). 

Chizoma Duru- Artist Statement: 
My relationship with art is represented by the colors that make up the lady’s brassiere. All these colors are rather bright and as an artist especially with my preferred medium, makeup, I love to play around with colors ranging from neons to nudes. As well as, loving to try new things. For example, this is the first time I am ever using MS paint to create a piece of art and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. 

My goals in life are heavily rooted in feminism, which is the advocacy of women’s rights to the point of gender equality, this is shown by the fact that my art piece is a woman. I presented her as a black woman, through her complexion and the texture of her hair, because that is the context which I can resonate with most effectively due to my background as a black Nigerian woman. As a black woman growing up on the African continent I have been exposed to the hypersexualization of women on the continent. For example, being told like you can’t wear this you will distract the boys through most of my life in Secondary school. The display of the woman in this artwork in a bra is a form of protest to this hypersexualization that has limited women for so long. 

In summary, I wear what I want, when I want and I have no apologies. It is combating the notion that women and what they wear are to blame for the misbehavior of males. The use of the rainbow in the woman’s brassiere is also to symbolize the intersectionality of my feminism as a representation of the lgbtqi+ community. 

I have immense confidence that this class will help me propel towards my goals by giving me the opportunity to change how women are seen in the media through my art. Many times the media portrays the beauty of women in one light, but this artwork displays that you do not have to fit into any box to be defined as beauty. Beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, and shades and I look forward to displaying this in my art. 

Yassnine Bounana- Artist Statement:  
I was strolling in the old medina souk in my home city, Marrakech. Enjoying the cheerful diverse Moroccan handicrafts; wooden sculptures, leather bags, cheerful lanterns, and more. These items had something in common, life. I could feel in each object the story behind it, I could visualize artisans centuries ago bringing into life such amazing pieces. I want to take part in this cause too, maybe days or years later someone will be impressed and inspired by one of my pieces. I decided to join the Creative Arts class at ALA to explore myself as an artist, and learn how I can influence others through the film medium. My choice of this design reflects one part of my identity as a Moroccan Amazigh.

The symbol that I have chosen is an Amazigh design that could be seen in different forms and the meaning of the texture is; freedom represented in blue just like the endless sky, strength represented in grey just like the color of stones, and happiness represented in a warm yellow just like the smiling sun. I am this item, and this Item is me. I have been through a challenging childhood where I saw people I love affected by the absence of what they called ‘’enough money’’ and worried about how the community will judge their decisions. Reflecting back on it, I have got attached to these values represented in the item because I have indirectly learned three main lessons. I should only pursue what I am comfortable with and not what others think would be good for me. I can achieve anything with hard work and drive. Lastly, I should take decisions that will make me and the people around me happy. 

This piece was put together by Dr. Sarah Kgagudi who is the Director of Creative Arts and Events at ALA. All art pieces and artist statements were provided by the students.