Visual Artist Penda Lets Her Art Speak for Itself in Her “Made In America” Exhibition

Image via @thebeautifulartist on Instagram

Penda is a visual artist with Malian roots and she’s proud of them. With her art coming in the form of artwork pieces, film and clothing she’s a talented black woman and the world can never have too many of those. Ahead of her “Made In America” exhibition, I emailed her to talk about her roots, her creative process and her message to the next generation.

Paul: Does your name have a significant meaning?

Penda: Penda means ‘love’ in Swahili.

Paul: What made you decide to choose visual arts as your form of communication/commentary on political issues?

Penda: Because art is my life’s work. I’ve been creating for as long as I can remember. It’s always been a natural thing for me. One of my earliest memories is helping my father and brother paint traditional bogolan (mud-cloth) as a child in Mali: learning how to create the designs and read their meanings. I also spent a lot of time in my parents’ art studio, creating drawings and clay sculptures alongside them as they worked. For me, it was always a given that I would be an artist.

Paul: When do you find yourself most productive in your artwork? Do you only create a piece when you have something to say or do you enjoy crating pieces “for fun” as well?

Penda: I’m very passionate about my work. As an artist I’m automatically an entrepreneur as well so I don’t have time to pick and choose when to create- I’m ALWAYS creating. I have an endless amount to say through my work; as a bicultural woman I know I have a unique perspective and a voice that is not heard enough in this country and this world, and I am constantly working to bring volume to that voice.

I think it’s a big misconception when people assume artists are creating ‘for fun.’ This is our work and our livelihood just like any other job. It’s just a bonus that we are blessed to be able to work in a field that we love.

Paul: When you hear the phrase “Black Woman” what images and words come to mind?

Penda: All of the beautiful strong women in my family back home in Mali.

Paul: What’s your favorite piece that you’ve created?

Penda: I find a beauty in each piece because with each piece I’m imprinting a part of myself. It’s a healing and self love process as I create and share.

Paul: Do you want to collaborate with any other artists or activists in the black community to do something similar to your Made In America exhibition?

Penda: I’d definitely be open to working with other artists if the time place and vision is right.

Paul: Would you say that you see yourself as an inspiration to younger black female artists? If so, what advice do you have for them?

Penda: I hope so. My advice is always to work hard and be self dependent. I do know I have lots of young girls that look up to me back home in Mali- not just for being an artist, but for being an independent woman that sees so much potential and value in our youth. My family and I run an educational center in Bamako, Mali called KoFalen tutoring center ( to ensure that our youth gets the education they deserve and can be on that path of being self dependent.

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