We talked to 21-year-old, Melbourne-based artist Nakate Kakembo about inspiration and navigating creative spaces as a mixed race Muslim.
How long have you been making art and who or what inspires you to create?
Ever since I was a young girl I had this burning desire to create. I was always dreaming and I think that’s why I’ve always made art, because it allows you to express what’s on your mind, and it can take you to another place. I feel like I have a lot to say, and instead of speaking, I try to translate what I’m thinking through my illustrations and drawings.
Strong women inspire me. Nature, flowers and plants inspire me. I also draw inspiration from my Chinese culture, my Ugandan culture and many indigenous cultures.
As a black woman myself, I love that your artwork exclusively features women, particularly women of colour. Do you feel it is important to showcase your culture and identity in your work?
It’s extremely important!!! Growing up in a white world, where European beauty is idolized and literally forced down your throat, I think it’s not just critical that we allow black and brown women to share their stories but my duty as a woman of colour to write my own narrative. Especially where I live, in Australia, we need sisterhood and we need unification more than anything. I like to draw strong women and women who know their self worth. All our greatness lies within, our revolution should start within, and the world we live in should not define who we are, we should.
Is there any particular message or feeling you want to convey through your work?
I want women to realise that their beauty will be illuminated when they realise their strength and their power. Every one of us has moments of self-doubt, anxiety, vulnerability and rejection. We are like flowers. We bloom when we are nourished, so let’s nourish our souls and encourage one another to rise towards the sun, and towards our infinite potential.
Can you talk a little about the art scene in Melbourne and how do you think your identity as both a mixed race and Muslim woman position you and your work in creative spaces?
Melbourne is this creative melting pot of different cultures and people. There are some great art collectives here that cater to people of colour and women but unfortunately not enough. I still feel excited to see another black person on the train, and it’s a comforting feeling but quite a sad reality. I often feel isolated in my own city, I feel like being Muslim, being biracial, and a women, is sometimes tiring. When I was younger I was bullied for my differences, I was made to feel ugly and ashamed of being mixed race, having no place to fit in, I would feel quite lost. As I grew older, I was fetishized for being mixed race, people looked at me differently, I was asked more questions, I felt further alienated from white society. I am constantly explaining myself, and for a long time I felt angry, but now I don’t get angry I just pour everything into my art. I often question my motives and myself, I am always asking myself what I want my art to say, what I have to say to the world. I hope that I remain true to my message.
Who are your favourite artists?
Jean-Michel Basquiat is my number one favourite artist. I also enjoy/love: Frida Kahlo, Jean-Léon Gérôme, Georgia O’Keeffe, Da Vinci and Picasso.
What are your plans for the future? Artistically speaking, where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I know it sounds cliché, but my dream is to just be happy and content wherever I am. I would like to try large-scale artworks, maybe murals, I want to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone a little.
Lastly, we talk a lot about pop-culture and things that we’re fans of on the zine, what would someone have to read, watch, or listen to in order to understand you? Or, alternatively, what are some things you’re into lately?
I read a lot of Rumi, and a lot of Murakami. I love philosophy books like Sun Tzu, The Art of War and The Alchemy of Happiness by Al-Ghazali, which are two of my favourites. My music library reveals a lot about me because it’s constantly evolving with my taste. I do this thing where I’ll listen to one song or album for extended periods of time. I’ve been listening to Princess Nokia’s album 1992 for seven days on repeat, she makes me feel so empowered and ready to conquer my day. It’ll probably change tomorrow depending on how I feel.
Check out more of Nakate’s work here:
Interview conducted by Rebecca, a biracial (White British & Cameroonian) girl currently languishing in the perpetual cold of N.W England. She is a history graduate who thoroughly enjoys 90’s American sitcoms, post-apocalyptic fiction, portrait photography and African contemporary art. Instagram