Hasina Kamanzi: Exploring Different Aspects Of My Identity Through My Art

Hasina Kamanzi is a 17 year old artist from Ottawa, Canada. Her artwork revolves around her identity as a Black Muslim woman.

Tell us who you are and what you do!

I’m a 17 year old artist. I currently live in Ottawa, Canada,  but I feel like my country of origin, Burundi, has more influence on my art than my current location. I see my art as a way of reclaiming and keeping in touch with my roots. In my art, I explore different aspects of identity. Mainly my femininity, my blackness and my spirituality. Therefore, my art is a reflection of my personality.

I have been drawing for as long as I can remember. I have always been an art lover. My first love was manga. I think I’ve read every manga available in my local library! I started out by studying the styles of sailor moon and dragon ball. With time, I came up with my own style which is somewhere between manga and semi-realism. It took time before I started to take my art seriously. Mainly because I felt like it would lead me nowhere and I lacked inspiration. Fortunately, I managed to grow past that. Today, I practice pretty much all kinds of visual arts. My favorite mediums are digital art, watercolor and acrylic, but I also sculpt and do graffiti.

What is the inspiration for your work?

It is actually really hard for me to pinpoint precisely what inspires my art. I think of my process as very spontaneous, it changes from piece to piece. However, each and every element of my work revolves around my identity of being a black muslim woman, since it cruelly lacks representation in mainstream media.

I remember watching Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk titled “The Danger of a Single Story” in which she recalls starting her career by writing tales featuring characters who were white with blond hair and blue eyes, in short, who looked nothing like her. And that’s when it dawned on me that I was doing the same thing. So, I started questioning myself. Why didn’t I naturally feel like drawing people like me? Why aren’t my people represented as much as others in media and when we are, in what way? In a way, I think this problematization occupies the center of my art.

A few artists that I admire on a technical level include: Markus Prime (@markus.effin.prime), Jacquelin De Leon (@jacquelindeleon), Audra Auclair (@audraauclair), Sanaa K. (@Sanaakblog), Sara Faber (@sarafaber_) and Rob Regis (rob_regis).

What would you say to prevent an upcoming artist from making the same mistakes you have made?

If you ever encounter an artist block, seek inspiration in other forms of art. I know that as artists we tend to look to our counterparts when we have a lack of imagination, but I feel like this is a destructive practice as we are most likely to start comparing ourselves. As creators, we must steer away from such habits and prioritize by pushing boundaries. For example, I often turn to poetry when I don’t know what to draw. I enjoy retrospecting on the feelings raised by what I’m reading and translating it to paper. I call this “drawing from my heart to my hand”.

What obstacles have you faced as a Black Artist/Business Owner?

I have faced economical issues because, let’s face it : ART IS NOT CHEAP! In order to be able to afford new art furnitures, I had to start selling my art via instagram. In the beginning, I did not have much clientele so I had to come up with an advertising strategy. I asked my friends with bigger accounts to advertise my page and when I felt like that was not enough anymore, I gave people with a bigger following a free portrait in exchange for some exposure on their page.  

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