African Studies Personal Statement
Committed to lifelong learning, I am a designer-maker and arts facilitator supporting creativity through an interdisciplinary practice to enrich learning and appreciation for the arts.
Curiosity underpins my desire to return to higher education to study the humanities. I enjoy learning languages (Louisiana Creole French, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish) and exploring identity and material culture through contemporary narratives.
Understanding how and why world arts and artefacts are made, used and circulated in modern and indigenous societies is fascinating to me. I am intrigued by symbols and their meaning in the applied and fine arts, particularly those found on ceramics, sculpture and textiles; Antebellum quilts, Baule masks and figurines, and West African Adinkra are just a few of the art and craft traditions that have captured my imagination.
As the creative voice behind MONYA NEBA, a contemporary craft label rooted in the Creole tradition of storytelling, I create narratives in clay, fiber and verse with a playful, tribal expression that reference indigenous folklore and Modern Art of the 20th century. My current work is a collection of wearable art pieces, rag dolls and cushions exploring my African-American, Cherokee, Creole and Ghanaian ancestry, and the visual language of Joan Miró.
Quite simply, it is my passion for making art objects and sharing what I've learned with creative individuals that motivates me as an arts facilitator.
For nearly twenty years, I have worked collaboratively with arts practitioners, educators and curators to organise imaginative, thought-provoking programmes for children and adults. These include workshops, exhibitions and performance events for Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, and other American holidays in cultural sites across the US and UK.
The Fitzwilliam Museum was invaluable to my interdisciplinary practice. In 2010, alongside my role as a Gallery Attendant, I began a one-year voluntary work placement with the Curator of Egyptian Antiquities. I assisted with the research and cataloguing of scarabs, jewellery, headrests and combs for current and previous exhibitions.
This in turn led to exploring the museum's collections further and delivering a series of creative workshops centred on symbols, language and identity. The experience was enriching, more specifically, the opportunity to make connections between ancient artefacts and Modern art in relation to my contemporary craft work.
Along with an interest in world arts, contemporary craft, and creative writing, I am avid reader of African folktales, the Bible, Gothic literature and poetry. I also enjoy cinema and theatre, performance poetry, and supporting organisations such as the Reading Agency.
In 2008, I began volunteering as a Summer Reading Challenge assistant, and for the past five years, I have encouraged hundreds of children across Suffolk and Hampshire to engage with other readers and explore a range of children's literature.
Two of my greatest strengths are self-motivation, which allows me to perform well under pressure in any environment, and my ability to inspire creativity in others. As a mature student returning to higher education after an eight year break, I would relish the opportunity to be inspired and challenged by like-minded souls.
This personal statement was written by monyaneba for application in 2013.