Darshana Raja was born in Kenya but grew up in the UK. She moved back to Kenya in 2017 and has been nurturing her passion for art over the years. She is the only Kenyan, and the only African to make it to the final round of the Loewe Craft Prize 2020. Her piece of art that gained her this recognition is a “Whole hole” piece that depicts the sun. She had no idea that she could join this competition until her friend referred her to one of her acquaintances who deals in contemporary art. He asked her to share pictures of her art. And that’s how organizers of the Loewe prize recognized her.
Darshana Raja’s Educational Background
Ms. Raja studied art at the University of Brighton in England. She specialized in woodwork, ceramics, plastics, and granite. Ms. Raj believes in learning new skills every day, in furthering her proficiency in various forms of art. Once she gets an idea, she learns the skills, gathers the raw materials, and works on bringing her idea to life. Unlike some artists, Ms. Darshan creates her art from waste materials from local furniture workshops. She found a way to turn this wood waste into beautiful artwork that’s acknowledged worldwide.
She finds Kenyan people to be fascinating since they know how to improvise. They can recycle what looks like waste into useful products. This method minimizes the production costs, keeps the environment clean, and widens the scope of creativity among artists. According to her, this is different from the culture she grew up in in the UK.
To create this specific piece of art, she collected waste wood products from local wood workshops, mainly Mvuli wood offcuts. She then used beeswax to varnish them. She then joined these pieces together in a mathematical structure.
Darshana Raja’s Art
She arranged the pieces of wood together in a rhythmic manner to form a structure that is sun-like. She filled the spaces between the wood with rubber waste. Darshana Raja also preserved the wood using a method known as Shou Sugui Ban, a Japanese technique she learned from the internet. It took her about two months to complete the artwork.
Ms. Raj gains inspiration from Fashion and Architectural works. Some of the notable icons she follows include Fashion Designer Andy Goldsworthy, Van Herpen, and Wangeci Mutu.
Besides creating her art with wood waste, she also uses glass, terrazzo, and granite. She learned how to create art using granite from local sandstone workers. Her passion for art and love for ceramics drove her to pursue a Master’s degree in Ceramics in the UK based Royal College. She believes that her work will inspire others to join the contemporary art realm.
Besides inspiring people to join art, she also encourages people to pursue what they love or careers that make them happy. She is a mother of three, and all of her three children engage in different co-curricular activities.
The Loewe Craft Prize
Loewe Foundation launched the Loewe Craft Prize in 20-16 to recognize modern-day art. The Loewe Craft Prize 2020 has 30 finalists spanning from 18 different countries. These finalists were selected from 2920 applicants. The works of all these finalists will be displayed at the Musee Des Arts Decoratif in Paris, France, from 21 May 2020 to 12 July 2020. The winner will be announced on 12 July 2020.
The winner takes home 50,000 ponds (approximately Ksh 5.712 Million). If she wins, Ms. Darshana Raja hopes to create more artwork as well as teach others. Contemporary art is gradually disappearing in Africa. Ms. Darshana Raja hopes to revive this by showcasing more artwork through her workshop and training more artists.