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Deqa Abshir

Kenyan-born Somali artist Deqa Abshir has training in both art and women’s studies. An artist in Kenya, her artwork expresses the complexities of identity.

“There are various influences that make up who I am, but my identity as a Somali Kenyan is fundamental to my life considering that I identify equally with my “Somali-ness” and my “Kenyan-ness”. Additionally having spent 6 years in New York for my art education and having my family scattered around the world have all led me to question: What is identity? How rooted is it in citizenship or where we live? Through my paintings, I try to get these thoughts in order. I feel like this discourse of identity affects so many in my generation of young Africans who everyday are confronted with issues of globalization, while having to engage with national, tribal and cultural pressures. Contrary to what is expected, I believe this has made my generation stronger, more diverse and more accepting. This acceptance and growth is something I strive to express in my work.”

Her work attempts to highlight some of the paradoxes of modern culture; the way in which our traditional or semi-traditional upbringings and the culture that surrounds our everyday lives contradicts with the modern fixtures tattooed across Africa. Her artwork endeavors to highlight the juxtapositions between the realistic and the poetic, the traditional and the modern, the global south and the global north.

Her current work focuses on identity on a community and individual level seen from the perspective of women. The images are set on a back drop of architectural imagery and symbolism, the changing architecture of our society as it develops represents a change in a community’s identity. One of the main symbols in this series of work is that of a gate. The gates represent the diactomy between the restrictions of identity and culture as well as the representation of new beginnings and possibility in relation to the current climate in world. The women in each of the paintings serve as a narrator as well as a symbol of the importance of women as storytellers within society.

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