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“My goal is to redefine the definition of blackness in the Diaspora, by using color, design elements to transcend physical material reality.”
Thank God for the creators of Instagram! I am always finding amazing artists and this week we are highlighting an extremely talented female artist and her name is Chi-Chi. When people submit their work to the website I initially send out a questionnaire and I condense their information, but I have decided to do something a little different so you can get the REAL artist. So below you will find the answers, directly from Chi-Chi herself. Enjoy!
[A] Chidinma Dureke a.k.a. Chi-Chi
[Q] Where are you from?
[A] I am a first generation African-American & both my parents are Nigerian. I am native of Maryland born in Washington D.C., raised by Nigerian parents.
[Q] When do you believe you became an artist and why?
[A] I think I truly embraced my talent and took the title as “Artist” after my senior art exhibition. I say this because it had taken three others and myself several months, weeks and sleepless night to put making this show life changing. The emotions I felt the day of the show were truly amazing and encouraging. I had finally felt and found my calling in the arts. My work spoke for me that day and my message was clear in my work. To be able to impact other lives in that light was so amazing. Art allows freedom of expression and ideas in a peaceful way. Not to mention being at a predominately white university and the only African-American girl in the exhibition and sell the most work that afternoon wasn’t too bad either. That experience gave me the validation and confidence I needed to go forward as an artist.
[Q] Favorite medium to work with when making your artwork.
[A] I would have to say oil pigments are my favorite medium to work with. I work primarily with oil paints on different surfaces. Every once in a while I use other mediums like fabric, paper, ink and gouache.
[Q] Who or what inspires you to create?
[A] My culture or lack there of culture inspires me to create. African aesthetic and West African/Nigerian culture all play a huge role in my work. Being a woman inspires me to create. For example, my use of kente cloth, bold/bright colors, textiles, African fabric and women of African descent. Being a minority inspires me to create. Initially, my portraits were based on the culture of hair and it’s significance it has in African –American culture. Using bold African fabric as head wraps to disguise what the figures hair look like; the viewer is then forced to focus on the woman’s natural and physical beauty. In the past we used Colorism to discriminate against each other as blacks and today hair has become another way to divide and discriminate ourselves as a people. Currently, my work focuses on hair and its significance in black culture but has evolved into beauty and what I feel it means to be beautiful. My goal is to redefine the definition of blackness in the Diaspora, by using color, design elements to transcend physical material reality. The expressionistic sunflowers are not naturalistic but used to represent society and mood. The fleshy, peachy color in each skin tone gives more positive feeling and the continuous use of the color green symbolizes growth and nature. With Africa as my main inspiration I fuse colors, textures, organic shapes and traditional techniques to create images that are fresh, iconic, expressive and diverse.
[Q] What is your absolute favorite project or piece of work you have created and why? What does that piece mean to you?
[A] I don’t have a favorite piece from the past five years. I enjoy all my work equally. The one piece that has been the biggest social experiment would have to be “One Drop.” The focal point here again is feminine beauty and what constitutes blackness. This piece is number one of eight. The piece is entitled “One Drop” primarily because it is difficult to determine the ethnicity this young woman represents. It is evident that she has that 1% of black in her. With her intense gaze, Head Wrap is a more passionate exploration of culture, portraiture. My ultimate goal is to shift our focus on whom the woman is rather than what her hair looks like, facial structure and complexion. What she looks like and the texture of her hair should no longer be used to define a woman. The goal is to shift focus from what she is mixed with and how diluted her blackness is, how “black” he or she is.At the time of working on this piece I was at a difficult period of my life. As a graduate trying to figure out if I was really going to pursue being a professional artist or work for someone else. In the process of trying to figure out life after college, I kept getting my hair relaxed once a month, wearing long straight weaves back to back. I grew my natural hair out in preparation of my big chop while figuring out who I wanted to be in represent in this world after college. My piece “One Drop”, helped me to express how I was feeling about the world at that moment in my life and our obsession with the western ideals of beauty and hair. I think her strong gaze exemplifies my frustration and awareness.
[Q] A quote you live by (optional)
[A] “ My favorite quotes are those on opportunity. When opportunity presents itself, if it is not inconvenient, it is no longer an opportunity.” – Margaret Dureke founder and president of WETATi
Connect with Chi-Chi
chichisart.com | firstname.lastname@example.org | chichisart.com/shop
Astu Mengesha – Stay Down Blaze Up
Inspired by Rihanna’s personal stylist, unique in her own right, and a person with an intense passion for denim – Jasmine White is a force to be reckoned with in the up and coming fashion realm. I was introduced to her through a mutual friend and I was struck by her denim designs. I was able to snag her during the infamous Redskins vs. Cowboys game this past Sunday for a quick chat.
Check out our interview below . . .
Astu: “Thank you so much for taking the time to do this I am really excited to learn more about NormaJeans! So tell me a little about yourself?”
Jasmine: “I am 24 years old, I took a couple of courses at the Art Institute of Atlanta, and I have a diverse background in retail – so I am very familiar with different trends and fashion in general.”
Astu: “So what exactly do you do to get your custom jeans? And where did this idea come from for NormaJeans?”
Jasmine: “It started out as a summer thing. I started making them for me and it caught on quickly. It was not anything serious but I have gotten so many compliments that everyone was telling me ‘girl you really need to start a business’ or just flat-out asking me can you make a pair for me. I basically use a cut and bleach method – sounds simple but it is tedious and I can guarantee that it is different and you will never get the same pair so that makes them right away custom-made. And, surprisingly, it was not only the girls a lot of the guys I know were hitting me up, too, asking for a pair of custom jeans.”
Astu: “Wait? Guys too?”
Jasmine: “Yes! Everyone! I am even doing pants for children. “
Astu: “That’s amazing! Now I want to go back to a point you mentioned. You mentioned the season: summer. Now that it is getting colder – is business still booming? Also the name, very creative, where did that even come from?”
Jasmine: “Of course! Everyone still wants a pair especially since you can throw on tights/leggings with a pair of boats. It is very easy to put something together. Ha ha now as for the name, believe it or not it came to me with the recent wave of interest in Marilyn Monroe that came about. Everyone loves her. I did not go along with the hype, right away, and I am one to really research something before I jump on a bandwagon. So one day, at work, I looked her up and found out that her real name is Norma Jean. I do admire her, especially, after learning more about Ms. Monroe – so that is basically how the name came about. Haha the funny thing is that there is also a strip club in Baltimore, Maryland called NormaJean but do not get confused ha ha.”
Astu: “Ha ha! I would have never known that her name was that – I can see why she went with Marilyn. Now, Jasmine, where do you see this going for you? Where is NormaJeans going?”
Jasmine: “Well, I would like to open an online boutique where I can sale wholesale items along with my things. To me, an online boutique is cost-effective and just smarter than opening up a physical location because you’ll have to factor in all these other things such as rent and anything else that comes along with a place’s upkeep.”
Astu: “That is very smart and makes sense! More flexibility for sure and you can reach more people. Now is there anything else you would like for our readers to know?”
Jasmine: “Yes, I will be purchasing more jeans and customizing them very soon so that they will be up for sale. I also want people to know that with everything I will provide above and beyond customer service, I have big plans for how items will be delivered to people, and I am really looking to invest in myself and make this business become an even bigger reality.”
Astu: “Thank you so much Jasmine for taking the time to speak with me and take care!”
All in all, I was really impressed with this young woman. She was able to take something that a lot of people can and are able to do and turned into something profiting. I asked her what sets her apart from any one person cutting and bleaching their own jeans and she simply replied “I am doing the tedious work…no one wants to take the time to, constantly, rip and rip these items and that is exactly where I come in.”
Once the interview concluded I, of course, continued to probe and I found out more about her passion for denim. It started early on in her fashion career back in high school. Motivation came from a school teacher who saw potential in her with her first creation of a “jean purse” made solely from a pair of Levi’s. Her desire as an entrepreneur is unmatched and quite interesting. Please support NormaJeans by placing orders via email at:email@example.com and follow Jasmine on her instagram: Besdress, I promise you will not be disappointed by her hard work.
CONTACT: firstname.lastname@example.org and IG: Besdress
Astu Mengesha – Stay Down Blaze Up