BAC Interviews

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Nadine Walker

by Joel Bravette

When I arrived (10 minutes late; blame bureaucracy) to meet Nadine for this interview, she was already sat at a tucked away table, poised elegantly yet casually, reading Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. Her back was to the door and so my flustered arrival and meerkat impression as I scanned the room for her went unnoticed but as I approached the table she turned to warmly greet me with a firm handshake and what I would contend is a trademark smile.

After proffering my immediate apologies for the holdup, I led straight into her very interesting choice of English literature. That smile again! “I recently watched the BBC adaptation of the story and found it captivating. I have always enjoyed reading and although this book has small font and no line spacing it is definitely a worthwhile read.”

I first became aware of Nadine Walker and her work at a recent display of Kingston University Masters Student’s illustrations and installations at the OXO Tower. As I looked around a vast array of coloured doodles and whimsical etchings, Nadine’s work was like an oasis of cultural solitude that resonated with CBACS and what it is that we are about.

Her work (see below) represents a fusion of Caribbean and British cultures, which is in essence endemic of her experience in this country. “I’ve always lived in Lewisham and am from a close knit family which is my parents, who are both Jamaican, and my two sisters (one older and one younger). My mother works in nursing management and my father works as a driver but they have both been pillars of strength to my sisters and me all throughout our lives.”

Having decided on a creative path at 15 years old, a young Nadine had already begun designing cards and flyers for different events. “Back then I was using Corel Draw to do basic designs. I did an art GNVQ at Lewisham College before going onto London Guildhall for my undergraduate degree and now I have just finished my masters in illustration. I started my business, Yummi Design, when I was 23 and it was progressing steadily until my distributor decided to wrap up the company leaving me to be designer and saleswoman! This made things more difficult but I am getting back on track with it now and am really pleased with the outcomes of my current work.”

As we talked about her experience completing the illustration masters course, I heard a familiar story that has been shared with me by quite a few different British African Caribbean students and former students. “I remember my tutors warning me to steer clear of doing the ‘black thing’…I was adamant to do what resonated with my personal development and discovery of self-identity…” I noticed there was a steely determination in her articulation of this point even if uttered with a wistful reminiscence. It was a timely reminder of the importance she had made clear her family put on hard work, self-acceptance and perseverance. “One of the most poignant things I’ve ever read was Maya Angelou’s poem, Still I Rise. It served as inspiration to stay true to my heart and what I felt was relevant to me rather than conforming to the status quo and what may have been expected of me.”

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All the talk of personal history and journey led our conversation to the inevitable mentioning of The Obama’s being the African-American first family of The United States. This is something that has resonated with a lot of people I have talked to regardless of cultural background and this was definitely the case with Nadine. “Every time that I see the picture of Barack Obama with his family around him, I swell with pride. This is a real enduring picture of sincerity, beauty and hope. He is a real inspiration to all descendents of Africans whether they be British, Caribbean or American. In fact he should be an inspiration to everyone!”

We carried on talking about a number of subjects and the more we talked, I recognized a great role model and inspiration in her own right. With her calm, cool and collected approach to life I can only see success ahead for Nadine, a talented artist who is as refreshingly creative as she is lovely company.

As we parted ways and said our goodbyes, I definitely felt a sense of meeting someone whose name will resonate with the ‘Yes we can!’ that President Obama advocates and is now the responsibility of each one of us here in Britain to make our reality too.

A selection of Nadine Walker’s work will be displaying at The Metanoia Project anniversary celebration on December 10th at London South Bank University. She can also be contacted for private comissions through her myspace.

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