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The inspiration behind Mama Africa

When inspiration decides to come

Where do you get your inspiration?

Inspiration behind Mama Africa painting

I don’t know how it works for other artists, but I go through phases. They can be short or long, inspired by major ideas or little things. This summer, I was binge-listening to Trevor Noah while working in my studio.

For the record, I’m not a fan of Trevor Noah the comedian. But I found myself admiring Trevor Noah the speaker. As it usually happens, I found one recording that hit close to my heart, and the next moment I turned onto everything I could find online. I wanted to experience Trevor Noah as a new concept with the newly discovered appreciation.

Dive in and paint away

I think I scraped YouTube to its bottom going through parts of old routines, The Daily Show Between The Scenes, a documentary about his first performance in South Africa, and finally the book “Born a Crime.” I was lucky, it was available for free on YouTube narrated by Trevor Noah himself. One of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic is a lot more free content. I am pretty sure it was an official video. Thank you, Trevor!

If you haven’t read or listened to this book, I highly recommend you do it. It is the glance into another person’s life from an angle that you’d never anticipate. When I work on my series of influential women, I make an extensive research way beyond the publicly available biographies. I want to connect and deeply empathize with a person I’m painting. Otherwise, it’s just not going to work. Trevor Noah made it easy for anyone who wants to reach the same level of connection and empathy. He simply put it all out there with a very adult perspective and a lot of vulnerability.

The significance of Mama

The most inspirational part of the book for me was the way he described his mother. There she was, Mama Africa — strong, oppressed but independent, loving and beautiful despite hardships and injuries. She resembled my mother who also struggled and never gave up. A young widow with two little children, she remained strong and beautiful. To this day, I get a lot of inspiration from her. I got to paint her — an ultimate, continental mother.

Read about what happened next to Mama Africa

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