Designer Penda Diakite Creates New Traditional Art

Q: When did you know that you would like to become an artist, filmmaker, fashion designer, and author?

A: I’ve always been a creative and loved art. I’ve written creatively from a young age and my children’s book ‘I Lost My Tooth in Africa’ was published in 2006. The story was based on my sisters experience losing her tooth in Mali, and the unique tradition we have back home when a child loses a tooth. 

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I started working with film about 10 years old and graduated in Film/Video from California Institute of the Arts in 2010. I worked on experimental and documentary film work. While at CalArts I began to develop a style in mixed media visual arts as well. My whole life I’ve been drawn to the beautiful fabric designs back home in Mali. I was dying traditional batik patterns and painting mud-cloth from a young age with family members in Bamako, and my love for that led to my line PendaWear, which is a blend of traditional West African imagery on modern designs.

Q: Can you tell us more about your fashion line, “PendaWear”?

A: My designs are a visual blend of my West African culture and urban American upbringing. My line started out as an artwear line. I was printing my mixed media art designs on the fabric of my designs, and as it progressed I started adding my favorite fabric from my Malian culture, giving it a modern twist. PendaWear is all about finding pride in our unique beauty.

Q: Your work is considered mixed media work, what drove you to mix and match materials to create your artistic designs?

A: I do a lot of video compositing (video layering) when I work on my experimental films. My college work is a more hands-on version of that art form. When I needed a break from staring at the computer screen, but was still in a creative zone, I would work on a more tangible version of compositing: collage. This is where my style developed.

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Q: You recently were granted the Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys grants, was that experience like to receive that news?

A: It was a huge unexpected honor as there were thousands of artists throughout the world that I was selected from. As an artist, to feel your life’s work and passion is appreciated means a lot, as it fuels your motivation to continue creating.

Q: You launched the “Made in America" art exhibit, can you tell us more about that and why you gave it this name?

A: The art show was about the experience of people of color in America. I’m illustrating the history, the ugly/painful as well as the beauty of black American culture which all manifested in America. It’s an illustration of the black experience made in America, hence the title.

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Q: Do you consider your art another form of communication, especially during these current times?

A: Art is always a form of communication. That is why I create, to ‘speak’ in a way that grabs one's attention and forces them to think critically in a way that words cannot do. Throughout history, art has been the catalyst to many movements, and it’s clear as artists we have a special power to our voice that we should constantly be taking advantage of.

Q: Is Los Angeles the only location you will be releasing your exhibit, or will you be touring soon? Is so, where your followers can attend?

A: You can subscribe to my website PendaDiakite.com to see where I will be showing next. Currently, I don’t have any new upcoming show dates.

Q: After the success of receiving the grant and the success of the “Made in America” art exhibit, PendaWear, and many other amazing projects, what’s next for Penda Diakite?

I have lots of projects in the work including a documentary film that I’m starting this year in Mali. I’ll be working on new pendawear creations for the summer, and am in the works of creating for my next show that I’m aiming to have in about a year.

Q: How can people continue to follow you, your amazing work and journey?

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A: My Instagram @thebeautifulartist

My Facebook @pendadiakiteart And subscribe to my site for upcoming shows and projects at Pendadiakite.com