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Every week, Het Nieuwe Instituut invites a designer to create a cover for the website in response to the question: What’s occupying you now? This week: Farida Sedoc.

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What’s the story behind your web cover design for Het Nieuwe Instituut Online?

The sketch for this illustration, I Want Tell You About Lady, has been on my desktop for years. The Covid-19 outbreak and its consequences – the reality of lockdown, which we have all experienced to different extents – made me reconnect with the picture. It appealed to my imagination and gave visual form to the loneliness of sitting still while watching a world evolve in a way that’s new to us all. The original sketch was black and white and I added the colours during this time while listening to the music of Fela Kuti (Nigeria, 1938 – 1997). The son of a women’s rights activist, he was sent to London to study medicine as a student, but instead decided to study music, with the trumpet as his preferred instrument. He became an iconic multi-instrumentalist, composer, jazz musician, pioneer of the Afrobeat genre and also – not unimportant considering his great popularity – a human rights activist. This fact, and the lasting relevance of his songs and the duration of each one, give his work a layered quality and healing power in complex times.

How does this piece relate to the rest of your work?

The title refers to Lady, a song on the Shakara album released in 1972. The song can sound like a condemnation of women’s liberation from traditional roles, yet also like a song that shows the power of women to define themselves. This is something that concerns me personally as a woman and I’m always exploring it. In particular, in the form of my most recent zine – It’s Funny How Money Change A Situation – I look at how different archetypes of women can exist in Hip Hop music and how intersectionality plays a role. I dive into Hip Hop culture as musical style, social criticism and economic influence, with special attention to the female voices in the genre from the 1980s to the present day. The same theme appears in this African feminist folksong; gender politics and the intersections of ethnicity, modernity, class and tradition.

Is the Coronavirus pandemic changing the way you work?

Yes – because there are few to no appointments outside the house and commuting has been seriously reduced, it’s had an impact on the way I work. How? Maybe I work faster now. Everyone’s work schedule now seems to include learning to work in an alternative way, because we have to take into account an invisible enemy who can lock us down at any time. Work must now be on standby due to the uncertainty of existence and the consequences of that. This makes it all so dramatic that I often find myself contemplating what lies ahead, while at the same time doing what’s asked of me, not forgetting what I want myself!

Farida Sedoc is a visual artist based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. She works in various media including screen printing, graphic design, collage, printmaking and textiles, creating multi-layered narratives and site-specific works. Her work is closely connected to the ideology of street culture, where the city and its citizens meet. It explores and questions contemporary cultural identity and the influence of monetary policy, heritage and politics on the future of globalism.