Raja Oshi is a mixed media artist from Sudan. Living in South Africa by way of France, Wales, Norway and Egypt, her work is inspired by her life context and expresses her feeling about what is happening in the world. Much of her work weaves and overlaps different materials and layers of paint to reveal hints of colour coming through edges, layers and spaces.
We asked her some questions about her day-to-day, her artistic influences and got a glimpse into her lush studio space in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
Hello! Tell us a bit about yourself - what is your background?
I am Raja Oshi, a Pietermaritzburg-based artist.
I’ve traveled around the world and I find Pietermaritzburg peaceful, small, and quite welcoming - with warm people and very good schools for my children so we settled here.
I graduated from the College of Fine and Applied Art at the Sudan University of Science and Technology in Khartoum, Sudan in 1994. In 2006 I completed my post graduate diploma at the centre for visual arts at the University of KwaZulu Natal.
What are your biggest influences?
I grew up on the Red Sea coast, so my days started by collecting shells, stones and interesting things and re-creating them as crafts. I have always found support from my family. They all had the natural talent to draw but no one took it to the next level. I started to find my own way by drawing girls, dressing them and styling their hair.
I love to paint and am inspired by so many brilliant artists of old such as Gustav Klimt, Mark Rothko and many others; and new contemporary artists such as Faith Ringgold, Marlene Dumas, William Kentridge and Mary Sibande.
When creating my paintings, what I create comes from inside. I believe when one looks or works with other artists it charges us, it opens our visions and inspires us to do more.
What does your work aim to say?
Most of the time my art speaks about what is happening around the world especially relating to women and children. Like what happens in the Mediterranean Sea with illegal immigration, or women being raped in Darfur - or in South Africa or anywhere in the world for that matter.
Sometimes I paint lovely joyous moments depicting children on their first day of school, or about pregnancy and motherhood. I am very fortunate to be able to travel and live amongst different cultures - meeting new people and seeing new places. I enjoy all my pieces and play with colour and design to create my texture.
Tell us about your studio?
My studio is a long verandah open to all the glory and wrath of the seasons. Sometimes I listen in the quiet to the birds, people walking on the street, lawnmower machines in the distance; and other times music or FM radio - all dependent on my mood.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
My day starts at six o’clock when my kids are ready to go to school. I have my breakfast and tea, and then rush to my studio. At lunchtime, I am back at home preparing food. Sometimes in the evening, if I find time, I create ideas for my next art painting project.
Favourite material to work with?
I love to work with oil colors but through my experience gained while travelling, I’ve introduced acrylic and it has taken me to a different place. It has given me a chance to try new techniques such as rubbing and drawing - not just using pencil or charcoal and ink but also by freely playing with lines, curves and special black ink.
Where can we find you outside of the studio?
I like to take care of my little garden on the side. I love gardening , recreating things for my home and walking often with friends or alone. I am very new to sewing but I find it enjoyable, meditative and inspiring - especially creating quilts.
What do you collect?
I collect and recycle materials and images to use them in my art and also create accessories and trinkets.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
Artists shouldn’t be scared to try different materials as it will open them to new ideas and/or techniques .
I always try to paint every day but for some mothers that can be almost mission impossible!