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 (kofalen.org) to ensure that our youth gets the education they deserve and can be on that path of being self dependent.

Media Mogul, Court Kim, Talks to The Hous About Cultural Appropriation, Women In Media, And The Benefits Of Collaborations

The Jill of all trades, Court Kim, sat with our COO and media director, Shy Yancy. Before diving into the interview, Court and Shy take a moment to discuss a writing piece Court recently [at the time of interview] wrote about: “The House That Built Me”. In this piece, posted on Lapp Brand, Court opens up about being a black woman living a suburban area. “I wanted to do a piece that properly told my journey. It’s a weird one but I think it’s one that’s important to talk about”. Being able to grow up in a suburban area as a black woman, Court was able to be well versed in all sector of life when she entered the adult world. Just at the age of 6 years old, Court got her first exposure to media by watching Oprah on daytime TV with her mother. She wanted to be able to share stories and talk about topics that the rest of the world might not be ready to discuss.

When asked about how the narrative for women in media needed to shift Court gave us very great and insightful answers. “Give us the opportunity to show you what we can do. A seat at the table is great but why just a seat? We’re not even offered that. We might as well build our own. Fuck the seat, build the table, and build it with the creatives you built relationships with”. Court recalls a quote from Issa Rae that discusses how we should build with creatives that share the same vision as you instead of going after the hiarchy and clout. “For Court Kim Avenue and Court Kim Media, I work with all upcoming creatives. They’re really bright and incredible kids and I learned so much from them”. She also discusses how black women in media need to have the resources. “There’s so much light and beauty that comes from us. There’s different narratives on the black woman … We embody this coolness that everyone wants. Why appropriate us when you can just hire us?” We go on to discuss the appropriation that black women go through in creativity. “Accountability and credit. That’s my biggest concern. We’re not getting the credit for the waves we create”.

Court shares her experience about getting a design stolen from her. “It reminded me that I can’t share my ideas with the world yet”. Most of us in the creative industry has felt some sort of betrayal when we have expressed our excitement for a project and someone (we trusted) comes in and takes the idea and probably has made some cash off of it. “There’s enough room for all if us to win. You don’t have to get it like that.” Shy brings up a great point: “If you have to steal ideas from others, you’re eventually going to run out of ideas.”

As a writer, Court describes her voice as “not safe”. Court’s platform leads with kindness but she will call out bullshit when it’s needed. “When it comes to my personal writing, it’s difficult to share your truths.” In her writing, she makes sure that all of her writng is honest, fact checked, and real. Every piece that comes from Court Kim is a reflection of who she is – honest and cutthroat.

As far as keeping her mental health in check, Court participates in “self care Sunday” where she doesn’t schedule anything for herself. “Throughout the week, I feel like I’m always so damn busy and I trying to lower my workload in that sense. It’s important to give yourself a day to just be to yourself”. Court has also been diving into her faith. Streaming church online until she finds a church home, Court wakes up every morning to relax to an online serman. In addition, Court also likes to cook a nice meal and even do some writing.

During the interview, Court let us know that she recently moved to New York City and she was presented with so many new opportunities. “I’m really proud because it means that the work I did back in Atlanta meant something”. As creatives, we tend to forget to applaud ourselves as we do the work. When we look back at where we started compared to where we are now, we realize the work we did then set us up for the life we’re living now, and that was just the case for Court. Court has done many groundbreaking things since moving to NYC and one of them was walking in NYFW 2018 for Matte Brand. This is Court’s first major runway experience and she absolutely killed!

Keep up with Court on Instagram