contemporary artist, interview

Interview with Contemporary Artist: Sónia Sultuane

Hi everyone, this month I had the pleasure to interview and get to know a bit more about Mozambican poet and visual artist Sónia Sultuane. It was a complete delight, and I hope you enjoy the reading!

Sónia Sultuane and “Walking Words”

Do you remember when was your first contact with art?

I think that the first contact I had with art I was ten, eleven years old, it was something that had a deep impact on me. I saw a mural by Malangatana, which existed in a bank branch, next to the building where I lived with my family when we returned to Maputo. I arrived home and asked my father, why all those pictures with so many people with strange faces. I came from a very small town in Northern Mozambique, Nacala. So, my father did not explain to me only the meaning of Malangatana’s work but who Malangatana was also. That was my first contact I can remember.

When you knew that you wanted to become an artist?

I think I never knew or even thought about it, it was something that was born, flowed and grew in me.

Who encouraged you to pursue an artistic career?

I’ve always liked doing things since I was a little girl, I even think I started doing artistic installations with buttons, zippers and papayas, when I was five or six years old (laughs). Of course, not knowing that I was making art. But it is true that my first artistic work presented publicly, and with a sense of art, was influenced by the Mozambican plastic artist and curator Jorge Dias, without him I think I would hardly have entered the art world.

Exhibition “Códigos de Gaudí”

Where have you studied art?

I never studied art, I never went to University and I didn’t even finish my secondary education.

What artists from past and present are a source of inspiration for you?

It would be almost unfair to choose among them because my inspiration comes from so many sources, sculptors, painters, architects, photographers, fashion designers, jewellery designers, writers. I’m inspired by both the great classics and the more contemporary ones. It’s true that since 2012 my great inspiration has been architects, architecture, and some specific materials, mainly mosaics.

You are famous for your work as an artist and as a writer, but which one came first in your life: the visual arts or the literature?

Inside of me, I mean consciously, it was undoubtedly poetry, and I also appeared publicly first as a poet.

Do you feel more like a poet/writer or like a visual artist?

Today both are deeply linked in me and in my own work.

In 2008 you created a project known as Walking words that is now integrated in several artistic areas, and I believe that your first solo exhibition Palavras que andam came from this project. So, can you tell us more about the idea of this project and the exhibition?

This is, undoubtedly, my life project. Give the words all the sense and meaning, their strength and value. In whatever form they are felt, read, said, or seen. I want my words to walk the world. How important is this project to others? Maybe none! But for me, they represent what inhabits me, what moves me, what makes me exist, that is also why my body is often the medium I use for this project.

There is also with this project the intention of the interest for the word, for the amazement for the word, for the curiosity for the word, by children, especially needy children.

What is the importance of Mozambican and African art on your work?

I defend and have always defended that my art and my literature must be universal, I don’t want to occupy defined spaces or specific places, but it is true that my entire creative process carries, whether we want or not, my memories and influences from where I come.

Where do you find inspiration?

In life, in people, in other artists, in travels and often in memories that I don’t know how to recognise, but I know I have them.

How would you describe your creative process?

Chaotic, but very focused and thoughtful.

Since you are a poet and an artist which works with several mediums, when the idea or inspiration came to your mind, how do you choose the medium to express it?

It varies a lot, sometimes the idea is already very developed in relation to the media I’m going to use, but other times I completely change direction, what drives me is what I mean as a thought and not so much how I’m going to say it or in what media I’m going to do it. Sometimes it’s mathematical, but other times it’s completely a discovery.

Do you have a favourite among your works?

Yes, the Walking Words project is a work that is continuous and always in progress, and where there is space for various media and works with other artists.

What are currently working on?

In the edition of my fifth book of poetry that comes out on November 4th, 2021 to commemorate the twenty years of my literary journey.

Do you think we can expect an exhibition of your work soon? 

Yes, I will be part of a collective exhibition with a new work on the 7th of November 2021. I had my fourth individual in July this year, therefore a very recent exhibition as well.

Has the pandemic affected your work? How?

Not in terms of creativity and productivity, but more in terms of public display. For me the pandemic has been beneficial as I always create a lot more when I have time and peace of mind. Being a chronic patient, cancer survivor, I have been working more in telecommuting, so I am confined at home for a long time, because I am not only a writer and an artist, I also work for a law firm.

I would like to invite everyone to visit my website. Also here is the link where you can purchase the book of the “Walking Words” project in digital format.

For further information on Sónia’s work:

All the images were kindly provided by the artist.