Aurélia Durand on The Next Wave: The Power of Authenticity and Self-Validation
Aurélia Durand is an Ivorian-French graphic artist based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Her upbringing in Réunion Island shaped her interests in representing the power and beauty of multi-culturalism. Durand’s cultural background also compelled her to produce art which celebrates culturally diverse and nuanced stories. Her recent works are characterised by Afro-pop culture, in which men and women proudly display Afro hair and braids with colourful African prints and edgy fashion accessories. In this interview with Omenka, she discusses her work and forthcoming exhibition The Next Wave: The Power of Authenticity and Self-Validation.
What informed your decision to become an artist?
When I was 19, I started my first year of art and design classes in Paris. It was from that moment I knew I would be an artist. I like to work on creative projects and to use my imagination to create innovative visuals—it gives me a reason to live. I can’t spend a day without thinking about new creative ideas.
On your Instagram profile, you describe yourself as Franco-Ivorian. What role does cultural hybridity play in your work?
My first project was about my identity, and it was the first time I had to interrogate myself about who I am. I initially found it difficult, as I was only 19 and was quite inexperienced. So I started to investigate and create visuals, drawings, and photographs. It was by doing this research that I realised that few female artists like me were represented. I understood this was something to work on, so I kept my focus to “multicultural identity.” It has now been more than a decade since I started this work. When I left school I had to re-interrogate myself to see what was the best way to work on answering my questions. And, for now, the answer is through illustration. However, nothing is set, and as I continue to evaluate in the future, maybe this medium will change.
You are part of the forthcoming exhibition The Next Wave: The Power of Authenticity and Self-Validation, organised by The House of African Art (HAART). What will you be exhibiting, how well do they fit into the theme and why?
I will exhibit four pieces, two portraits and two larger paintings.
HAART’s pop-up exhibition offers an alternative to the traditional gallery experience. How important are exhibitions like these to the growth of the contemporary African art scene?
To make noise and show new upcoming artists with new visions.
You once said, “All illustrators who inspire me do not highlight Black people or colours in their illustrations. I wanted to stand out and create another universe that is not often seen in the media.” Please, can you speak more about this statement?
I just want to see more colours and more nuanced narratives in the representation of people in the visual arts.
In works like Triplettes and TroisMecs, you fuse African and Western clothing on your subjects. What message do you intend to pass across?
My goal as an Afro-descendant artist is to show a modern, joyful, and vibrant image.
To what do you attribute the growing interest in art from the African continent and its related diaspora? How sustainable is this interest?
Everybody is aware of, so there are so many platforms emerging. It is important to see this growth in the long term.
Are there other forthcoming projects you would like to share with us?
Not for the moment.
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