Sandhia Devi Somiah is a contemporary artist from Mauritius. Most of her work, uses the female body as a central focal point to address issues of gender and inequality.
In this interview we speak to Sandhia about the inspiration behind her ‘Femininity’ collection and the challenges that come with being a female contemporary artist in Mauritius.
What inspires your work?
I am inspired by female models. Because of domestic violence against women, I dedicated my paintings to them to show the world that women need to be treated with respect. By putting their beauty and curves in the frontline, this would certainly give people a different view and opinion on them.
When did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in art?
Since childhood, I had a passion for art but my artistic journey started during my High School days whereby I discovered my talent for creation.
Tell us about your artistic aesthetic?
Art is something that stimulates an individual’s thoughts, emotions, beliefs and ideas. I realised that artworks could also be made from anything from our surrounding including scrap and recycled material after adding some personal touch. Lastly, I have been doing some sculptures and installation artworks and in this respect I made a dress from corks with assemblage technique and I did paper origami too.
Can you describe the process and inspiration behind your ‘Femininity’ collection?
I wanted the public to discover and appreciate a wonderful pairing of flowers and women, put up together just enough to stimulate their emotions and to show the public the real value of women and how to treat them. The pairing of women with flowers illustrates the ideas of fragility.
You are based in Riviere du Rempart in Mauritius. Can you tell us a bit about your home town and would you say that your neighborhood/country has any effect on your style of work?
Mauritius is a tropical island, surrounded by beautiful beaches where there is a great diversity of different religion and cultures. My paintings are full of colors which reflect the quadricolor of the Mauritian flag- Red, Blue, Yellow and Green. As for my hometown, Riviere du Rempart is a village situated in the north of the island, not far from the seaside and surrounded by sugar cane and vegetable plantations. Consequently, all these colors around me have had an influence on my style of painting.
Have you faced any challenges with being a female contemporary artist?
In Mauritius, Visual art is not really appreciated by the public and it is not considered to be a field to earn money. This is because Mauritian cannot value art whether painting, drawing or sculpture. As a new and young female visual artist, it is very hard to emerge and make people appreciate my talent. In the beginning, I faced many challenges and critics from family, friends and surrounding about my choice of art as a career and earning a living out of it. Nevertheless, my passion and determination has been my driving force to continue and make me reach where I stand today.
Tell us how others describe your work versus how you see it? Do people understand it or do you constantly have to explain it?
Till now my paintings have been quite explicit and it has not been so challenging to make people have an understanding of the message I tried to convey in my work. And also the title of my paintings speaks for themselves.
Are there any artists that inspire you?
Yes, I was inspired by international artists such as Martina Shapiro, Helenka Wierzbicki and Spacy Eva. However, I was also attracted by the works of Mauritian artists namely Vaco Baissac, Nathalie Perichon and Mila Gupta.
What are your other interests besides art?
Being an artist, it is more than natural to be attracted by activities related to art. Therefore my other interests are music, dancing, stage performance and sport activities.
Any advice for new artists interested in pursuing art as a career?
We never stop learning and making new experiences. My message for new artists is to never stop dreaming, stay focus and live your passion.
To learn more about Sandhia D. Somiah’s work, please visit: Facebook.com/pages/SandArt/1412969245659497
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