Can you introduce yourself ?
I am Aya Nda a French Ivorian woman of 45 years old. I was born ın France and I grew up ın Ivory Coast. I have been living in Guadeloupe for the past 11 years. I have been doing art for the past 6 years. Although I always loved painting and drawing, I devoted myself very late to this activity as I spent the first part of my professional life working in the health sector. I am a medical doctor specialised in anaesthesia reaminatıon. Today I have two professions: I am a doctor and a painter.
I moved to Guadeloupe for business reason after having lived a few years in France. I like living here but I go back regularly to Abidjan to see my family.
My work ıs mainly focused on the abstract and is build around an aesthetic research. I am inspired by the aesthetics of African fabrics textures symbols and dyes.
How did you get into painting?
In fact, I always loved Visual Arts. Drawing and painting are my favourite hobbies. My wish was to integrate the Beaux Arts School but my parents who were teachers didn’t encourage me in this way. They had the vision of a fragile artist who can’t live from his art and they have therefore wanted to protect me. I have followed a classic curriculum and studied medicine.
In 2010, I reached a balance in my professional and personal life. This is at this period that my great willingness for painting and drawing reappeared. I reconnected with my first love painting. Then I decided to learn plastic arts.
I have been first initiated in 2010 by a painting restorer. And then for five years, I have been attended Lucien Leoganer’s workshop, a Guadeloupean painter and plastic art teacher.
What are the artists that have influenced you, that you admire?
Being carried by the abstract and the unreal, I was seduced by 20th century abstract painters such as Kandinsky, Rodchenko, Mondriani, Delaunay Poliakof, Pollock, Sam Francıs, Zao Wou Ki etc. Their works inspire me. I love the sensations behind the abstract art.
What I like in abstract art, among others, is that everybody can feel it and see something different, depending on his sensitivity and mood.
I am also sensitive to African artists as Monné Bou, Stenka, Duku, Pope, Ibra Tall.
My mother was a French teacher at the Beaux-Arts of Abidjan in the 80’s. I worked with very young Ivorian artists painters who gave me the taste for this art.
Where do you get your inspiratıon? What is the process of your creation?
My main source of inspiratıon is Africa, its textiles and the aesthetics of its traditional and modern pagnes and their symbols.
When talking about the process of creation, there are no rules nor classical schemes to follow. All I can say is that, for me, there are three possible scenarios.
Sometimes I have an idea in my head. It won’t leave me and will pursue me until I put it on a canvas. And then is a real liberation.
When I work on a specific topic, I generally follow the unifying structure, the red thread.
The third possible scenario is where the final work does not really correspond to the original idea. It happens when, during the process of creation, external meetings or discussions diverted me from the original idea.
What is the unifying thread in your work?
Painting real and identifiable things doens’t interest me. I like abstract concepts and I work with intuition regarding harmony of colours and balance of forms. What I like the most, is to highlight the aesthetic of Africa as it is a large part of my identity.
My art is mainly abstract, aesthetics and regularly focused on Africa .
Place of the (African) Woman in painting
According to you, are the issues related to women artists in general and African artists in particular the same?
There are problems related to the status of women, others raised in Africa or even specifically African. And in my opinion, African artists suffer from the “double pain” of being women and being from Africa.
To be a woman in the art world is to cope with the legacy of a certain machismo in an initially male environment. In the West, until the middle of the 20th century, art produced by women was depreciated. It was not considered a priori, seen as without scale and not worthy of interest. Women are traditionally confined to the management of the household or possibly to the craft industry. Western women artists had to fight, in time, to be recognized in the same way as their male counterparts. African artists still probably have this fight to do.
In addition, being a woman, especially in Africa, means still assuming much of the domestic chores and child care. There is therefore a lack of availability. With equal training and talent, women have less time and energy to devote to the production of artworks than men. But low production results means low visibility, and women under-representation in art is obvious.
Finally, African artists and their male counterparts are particularly concerned about the quasi-inexistence of the art market on the African continent because of the lack of collectors. The poverty of the African populations drastically limits artworks sales. This leads to discouragement and depreciates the profession of artist. And therefore, one can not seriously encourage an African woman to “desert” her home for “a profession that is not worth it” …
What are the challenges faced as a woman? As an artist? as an African artist?
I do not encounter special problems related to my status as a woman because being single with no child gives me the availability that a lot of women’s don’t have. This allows me to produce and to exhibit regularly, and therefore, to be relatively in visible Guadeloupe. I have two professions to which I devote myself entirely. From the point of view of the recognition, I am stiIl a beginner in the sector. I still have things to prove. But this is more because I am young artist than because I am a woman. In a few years, I would have an personal experience on the questıon of the representativeness and recognition of African women in the art.
When I decided to start to do painting, I invested myself 100% in it. I took trainings. I created my company. I registered myself at the house of artists and I started to exhibit regularly. To be known and recognized and, thus visible, the key is participating in exhibitions as they provide a way to showcase your artworks.
I understand that in a sense this can be a barrier for some women who are married, who have children and are therefore less available.
How do you think this problem can be gradually overcome?
I don’t have THE solution but I think it will be found by African women themselves. To improve the representation of African women ın the art, there will be some sacrifices to consent to as each time we ‘’go out’’ from one own home. When African artists will be ready to do some of these sacrifices, things will evolve in the right sense. It means a lot of work and renunciations. But it is necessary to go through that. As for to be professional and visible, you must have a certain level of productivity and be regularly present at different artistic appointments, collective and personal.
Does this problem has already been illustrated in your artworks?
No, not yet but it is in process. Not specifically the place of women in painting, but the place of women in the society, the place of women out of their home. These are the themes that speak to me and inspire me. I have been working a lot on these questions in my head and I plan to put them on canvas soon. I am also interested in the status of women in the African society, who are often is brought back to their role of ’’reproductive” function. I want to convey these issues with a feminist angle.
According to you, is there a feminine style in arts?
It is hard to say. It is true that for some paintings you may recognize a touch of emotion or a femınıne sensibility. But honestly it is not enough to help determining a typically feminine style in my opınıon.
Are you a member of associations or collective?
I belong to the House of Artists (mandatory in France) and to the ADAGP (Association of authors in graphic and plastic arts) for the protectıon of my author’s rights. I am well aware that in order to make a difference and, in particular to make the place of women evolve, it is necessary to gather together, but I am a fairly independent woman. One day maybe.
What are your current projects?
I have two major exhibitions planned in 2017, the first in March 2017. It will be held in Martinique. This is my first duo exhibition as I will be with a Martinican artist.
In July 2017, I will exhibit in Ivory Coast. It is a very strong and emotionally important event for me. I feel some pressure but for the first time, my family and people I know will be there. Other Ivorian artists will be there too. I will come back to my country with an artist hat though everybody knows me as a doctor. In a way, I need the blessing of the Ivorian artists. I am very moved by all of this.
This year I also have two small exhibitions in Guadeloupe, one in April and one in May.