Interviews With Artists: Naila Aroni

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1.So, tell us a little bit about yourself- pretend this is the first day of school for one second and it’s your turn in the circle to come up with three interesting facts to do with your life (the bane of first day experiences, yes I know).

Hmm.. this is a tough one for me considering how anti-climactic my Fresher’s experience was haha. But from the top of my head, these were the first three things that came to my mind:

• I grew up on a farm which I thought was embarrassing for most of my childhood, I don’t think knowing how to make chicken food will be of relevance at any other point in life but I think that’s where my compassion towards animals stems from so that’s cool.
• I really love to cook and experiment with different cuisines*
• Did I mention I grew up on a farm?

2.What was it like growing up in Kenya? 

I 100% attribute my open-mindedness and vibrancy to growing up in Kenya. It’s very multi-cultural and we are super unapologetic about our afro-centrism. I got to experience things like living near a giraffe sanctuary that is quite unique and something I don’t think I would’ve experienced elsewhere.

3. I’ve seen the range of your paintings on your Instagram and they’re both beautiful and interesting! Is there a specific theme to your physical artwork? 

I wouldn’t necessarily categorise my work thematically because I think that has a tendency to inhibit one’s experimentation with other styles, but I’d say it leans towards Surrealism. I haven’t fully explored my passion for the art form because it isn’t the most commercially rewarding, so sometimes I have to dim down my quirkiness so I can sell my art, which is pretty unfortunate.

4. How would you describe your own genre of music?

Probably under Neo-soul/R&B

5. Tell us the story of the production of your song, ‘The Worst’ which you are featured in? Did you also help write it or was your focus on the vocals?

It’s quite the funny story because my initial intention was just to write the lyrics for a friend, but my friend Sam (Sichangi) who produced the song urged me to fully commit to it so I’m happy I ended up doing it eventually.

6. Are there other genres you’re interested in exploring or simply enjoy listening to?

I listen to quite a lot of music actually, it’ so cringe because some of my friends kind of tease me about it because if we’re chilling and you give me the aux, you never know what to expect. I’m very close to my oldest who produces and is the lead guitarist of an afro-punk band so being around his musicianship exposed me to Musicians like Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Metallica and Jimi Hendrix to name a few.

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As a ‘creative’ I think its essential to always keep an open mind. It’s unfortunate if you to ‘free your mind to become to become a slave to your own ego’. I dead-ass have *some* country songs (no relation to me growing up on a farm) on my phone, specifically by Chris Stapelton whose music I enjoy. So keeping an open-mind definitely promotes and sustains growth

7.What inspired you to start creating?

I was quite the hyper-active kid so my Art was just a way to keep me busy because I was constantly yearning for something to do. Writing was my first passion and my school teachers noticed it and tried to nurture it by encouraging me to write short stories and poems which they would publish in the school magazine.

8.At what age did you start pursuing your passion for art and the different fields it incorporates? Was it since you were very young or is it a more recent phenomenon?

It’s definitely something more recent. I assumed that I would ‘grow-out’ of my passion for the Arts because it isn’t economically rewarding where I come from, so I was okay with just pursuing it as a hobby. What completely changed my perspective is the emergence of #NuNairobi which is a movement Musicians and Artists in Nairobi have began pioneering. It’s very inspiring to see people I know who commit to their Art be recognised in the global arena and I would love to be a part of a community that solidifies and propels the Art industry for Kenyan youth.

9.Your Instagram is a place of positivity, self love and vibrant colours. Are there any tips you’d give to help young girls with self-acceptance and finding the peace of mind to both preach confidence and act on it internally?

I struggled with a lot self-esteem issues as a teenager specifically with colourism and my internalised stigma towards natural hair. I attribute all my ‘wokeness and wellness’ to feminism and my relationship with my best friends who’ve faced similar struggles. My advice to young women would be to continuously practice self love, and to black women specifically, to embrace their diversity. The world is too vast and too diverse for everyone to be Eurocentric/heteronormative.

10.Is there a specific message you are trying to put across?

I’d say my end goal is to, hopefully, leave the Kenyan creative scene a better place than I found it subsequently serve as representation for young black girls who want to pursue creative careers on a global scale.

11.There are obvious racial and gendered struggles that are clouding our society in this turbulent (especially politically) time. Is there a particular social cause that is closest to your heart, such as black lives matter, feminist issues or body positivity?

I’d say Pan-Africanism is probably a movement that is closest to my heart and the movement I feel the most connected towards. I do still support and admire movements such as BLM and the LGBTQ+ community even though I may not have a “direct connection” with both groups. It’s important to live my life by compassion and support people from marginalized communities however and whenever I can.

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12.Warwick has a variety of arts societies such as LINE and The Boar. But, they are notoriously difficult to get involved in and have been accused of not being meritocratic. How would you rate artistic opportunities in Warwick and on campus?

I do appreciate societies such as the Warwick Art society, and the BFT film society which I joined in my first year but I still acknowledge there are some areas of the Arts that haven’t been explored to a significant extent. I think it’s cute and fun making short films and attending Art classes but Creative societies could improve by appealing to people who want to pursue that as a career by bringing in artists from various industries to advise those who want to pursue their passion seriously.

13.Tell us a little bit about the magazine you’re launching, HashragHeaux, and the motivation behind it. 

So, HashtagHeaux is an independent magazine (zine) some friends and I decided to create. It started off as a creative outlet to express ourselves beyond the confines of uni work. I think it’s a really great collaborative effort because each of us have our respective strengths, whether that’s photography, styling, or editing. We’re working on creating content for our first magazine launch, so anyone who wants to model/write is welcome to join. ALSO ! You get to have really cool photos for your insta feed so that is a plus !

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14.I’d also like to add that I’m jealous of your wardrobe! How would you best describe your personal style?

HAHA omg I’m snickering because I think my style is all over the place but I’m so humbled, thank you! I definitely find it challenging dressing for British weather because the weather is a significant contrast to the climate back home, so my style suits more of a ‘hot/tropical’ climate.

My style is more an amalgamation of different things; I really enjoy street style because that’s more of my ‘every-day’ style and I’m obsessed with androgynous fashion. I was a really tall kid and my mum got sick of constantly buying me clothes cos I would grow out of them almost instantaneously so I got a lot of hand-me-downs from my brother who’s a year older than me.

15. Ok, for the standard ‘fun’ question: If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you bring?

At first glance, I was planning on bringing supplies to get me the hell out as fast as possible, but I’d probably use the opportunity to relax and tan since this British weather has snatched the melanin right off me:

Carmex (duh, you must protect your lips at all costs), hella snacks and a bae (theoretically haha)

16.Spoken word and poetry is another medium you’re talented in and seem to explore (such as in your IG captions etc). How did you get into poetry and are you planning to pursue it in the future?

I’ve been about poetry since I was child, so I reverted back to it about two years ago right before coming to uni. I discovered the ‘Button poetry’ channel on Youtube and I got hooked ever since.

I think of all art forms as interconnected in some way, so even if I choose not to publish my poetry I still use it as a stimulus to inspire my Art/Music. However, I’m still open to sharing my work once I have a compilation that’s large enough. I think a poetry book with paintings that correlate would be refreshing.

17.As you recently performed at the Warwick Africa Summit, are there any tips you have for those who want to get involved with spoken word but are too shy to actually put themselves out there?

Try practicing in front of friends/family maybe? And watch/read lots of spoken word, I know it’s a tired saying but its the most convenient way to learn from other poets with more experience.

19.Who would you say is your favourite poet?

It varies depending on my mood, but right now, Donte Collins.

20.Doing any degree is difficult to balance with extracurricular projects. How do you have time to balance artwork with your academic work such as essays and lectures?

Haha that’s an interesting question because I’m yet to learn how to balance uni assignments and my creative projects, but bullet journaling is kind of helping to ease the burden.

21.In one of your posts you address dealing with self doubt, specifically in creativity and art. Is there any advice you’d give to newbie creatives who are trying to put themselves out there but find themselves questioning their talent?

As cliché as it sounds, keep creating and keep sharing your work with friends/family. Words of affirmation are so important to any Artist regardless of your experience, every Artist is susceptible to self-doubt. Speaking from personal experience, I think the more you grow, the more you’re able to differentiate and deduce criticism that will help you improve and people who don’t want the best of you. YOU ARE MORE BADASS THAN YOU THINK SO DON’T LET SELF-DOUBT GET THE BEST OF YOU x

23.Finally, the question we’re planning to ask all future inspiring and aspiring artists: How would you define what it is to be an artist (who fits the category?) and is there any advice that you’d like to give to future creators who feel too intimidated to start putting themselves out there?

To be an Artist is to be an innovator. There’s nothing more powerful than the ability to create something, free from reason or any logic- the possibilities of what you can create/explore are limitless. I think Artists are severely underrated.

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My advice would be to put yourself out there, don’t say tomorrow, or in the future but literally JUST START. The world is all about networking so you never know what possibilities lie ahead. Talk to other Artists who are pursing something similar. Having a mentor can be super helpful, not just to get your creativity buzzing, but most of my closest friends are people I met through creative ventures and they’re the homies that have my back when I doubt myself the most.


Listen To Naila’s Song ‘The Worst’ on SoundCloud !

Interview By Maya Kokerov 

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