Interview x Manuja Waldia
Manuja Waldia is an artist and visual designer currently based in Portland, Oregon.
Predominantly working in the medium of illustration and print, Waldia’s work elegantly redefines a modern global sisterhood which values a “hyper evolved ultra-femme, a product of years and generations of struggle, oppression, tragedy and glorious resilience. Her work Sights influences from ancient Indian and Persian miniature art whilst depicting the modern experience of a woman of colour. INHERENTLY political, yet DELIGHTFULLY WHIMSICAL her illustrations playfully reinterpret what it means to belong to an evolving community that traverses GEOGRAPHY and creed.
Manuja gives us a little insight into her creative process and the relevance of her unique and powerful depiction of the divine feminine form.
Hi Manuja, can you tell us a little about yourself and creative/personal background?
I am an artist currently in Portland, Oregon. From 7-2, I work as a visual designer at Genesys. I paint in the evenings and weekends.
Much of your work is influenced by ancient Persian and Indian miniature painting can you explain how these traditional techniques bleed into your contemporary illustration?
The craft looks miniature-y as I am self taught and looked at classical art to learn composition, color, etc. However the ideas are mine, so the work is relevant culturally/modern. Women are my muses, each generation making it easier or future generations and their allies. In my paintings the figures are modern, a hyper evolved ultra-femme, a product of years and generations of struggle, oppression, tragedy and glorious resilience.
You call yourself a “witch at coven” why’s that? And how has your understanding of mysticism and spirituality informed your work?
Any woman who has realized the power within (or magic) is a witch. This coven is made of love, acceptance, no-ego, resilience, creativity, intersectionality, individualism, struggle, community, talent, handwork and of-course magic.
Your work tackles the under representation of WOC in popular culture and illustration, can you tell us what this means to you, and how has your personal narrative as a WOC living in Portland impacts your work?
I try to draw my existence as a WOC. Popular culture skews heavily towards casting humans with Eurocentric features. WOC are taught to feel conscious about our facial features, hair and body types.
My work is a fuck you to those fascists.
You primarily work with a strong female protagonist and often depict empowering representations of feminine figures, why this subject matter in particular, and who are you seeking to speak to with your work?
It’s my truth. Women and their allies have always saved the world from testosterone and egos. They are my heroes. I want to create work celebrating the resilience of women before us, emboldening women of the future.
As we see the significance of social media, digital technologies and digitised media continuing to grow, where does illustration fit in, and do you believe your discipline co-exists or is harmed by this developing digital landscape?
My work personally is furthered by social media which has made art extremely accessible. Just a decade ago, civilians had access to art just through museums, but now there is so much awe-inspiring work just on Instagram and Tumblr. It has made it really democratic and lets good work float to the top eventually.
And can you tell is a little about your redesign for the Pelican Shakespeare series?
It is a dream job in collaboration with Penguin Random House, with creative direction by the legendary Paul Buckley. I loved the challenge of reinterpreting these classic covers in a contemporary light.