For Rashida Anjarwalla-Nurbhai, art is a creative way of uplifting and empowering. The Arusha-based artist talked to Zephania Ubwani about her purpose as a feminist and activist.
Tell us a little about yourself
Rashida is my first name, Anjarwalla is my maiden name and Nurbhai is my married name. My brand name is Rashida Anjarwalla-Nurbhai. I decided that my art brand name should reflect my whole journey. I am originally from Nairobi, but I've lived in Arusha since I got married in 1991.
I studied Nutrition and Food Processing and I am currently pursuing advanced studies in Nutrition. Apart from being an artist, my everyday role revolves around being a daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, home maker, and an entrepreneur. I am one of the directors at the family owned business — Bulk Group Of Companies — but I'm currently concentrating on my budding entrepreneurial endeavours. I am blessed to have a family that supports me to pursue my art, and to concentrate on my career in nutrition and food processing. Painting is one of my hobbies and I also enjoy golfing, reading, baking, and hiking.
How did your journey as an artist start?
Art has been a passion of mine since childhood. I've never formally studied art. I am a self-taught artist, but I would love to attend an art school one day. I have always enjoyed painting, but I was inspired to embrace my talent at a more productive level in 2019.
In November 2019, our spiritual leader, His Holiness Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin (TUS) visited Arusha and the core sermon was based on teachings related to applying a talent to support the community, to create happiness for others and for ourselves. The teachings inspired me to apply my creativity.
What inspired you to pursue art as a business and what are some of the challenges you face?
I believe, when we do what we like then work becomes an enjoyable part of our daily life. I like creative work, I like colours, I enjoy painting, so that inspired me to venture into a business related to art.
Apart from it being enjoyable — because art allows us to express our thoughts and views in a creative manner — it allows us to create awareness about our culture, environment and community. As a budding art entrepreneur, I am finding it challenging to make my art accessible to more people. Since I ventured into art as a business in 2020, due to the current limitations, I haven't had much opportunity to participate in exhibitions but, I am currently working on collaborating with virtual art galleries to exhibit my work.
Tell us about your paintings
My paintings capture moments of my experiences, with some added elements of my own imagination. Depending on the theme or subject, my style varies between realism and expressionism.
Most of my paintings are related to Africa because I want the world to view the beauty of Africa through my art. For example, The Serengeti Great Migration paintings are based on my experiences of places I have visited. I used to work on varied ideas, but, in 2020, I decided to concentrate on certain themes that I instinctively felt most drawn to such as The Big Five of Africa, The Serengeti Great Migration and The Doors Of Africa.
Who is your favourite artist? Which of your paintings is your favourite and is there any work you dislike?
I'm fortunate to have a family full of creative minds and they encourage and inspire me to become better every day. They are also my best critics. Also, in an era where we can google almost everything, I tend to learn about a new artist every day.
I love all my work because every piece is special to me. My art work is part of me. I spend many hours with my paintings and I'm happy when they find a loving home, and an owner who will love them as much as I do. I am particular about my work so I don't settle until I am completely satisfied. Even if everyone else likes it, if I'm not happy about it then I don't consider it done.
How do you operate your art business? Do you have a particular clientele? Is your art venture limited to painting only?
I work from home. My marketing and sales operation is mostly conducted online. I have social media pages for my art, where people can view or buy my pieces. My paintings are available to anyone who likes and appreciates them. I'm not aiming for a niche market. Apart from original paintings, I do prints and magnets of all my paintings. I have also collaborated with an online art company to create designer products using my paintings.
What is your biggest achievement so far in your career as an artist?
As I hinted earlier, my motto is to uplift and empower through art.