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A&E Q&A - Living Walls: TIKA

Zurich, Switzerland

TIKA was born in Switzerland, but raised in Cairo, Egypt. She attributes her fascination with visual language to the mythology of ancient Egyptian culture that she was exposed to growing up. Splitting her time between Zurich, Rio de Janeiro, and Berlin, TIKA enjoys traveling all over the world to create site-specific murals that draw on local culture for inspiration.

What about the conference itself or the city of Atlanta drew you to participate?
I followed the previous two conferences online and was super happy to receive the invitation email from Monica.

How do you feel about this year's Living Walls lineup being all girls?
For the past few years I have said no to many, many "all female" projects, books, expositions, as I think being female should not be a category to judge someone's work. So I hesitated a moment to confirm. But as it is a conference, I hope it will be talked about the fact that there are still so many people talking about male or female style, about girls this guys that. (Maybe some of the readers now think, "Yeah, but TIKA definitely has a female style." So how come Juxtapoz writes about my work referring to me as a guy?) Sure, biologically there are differences, and that's fine and fun. But for the rest it would be amazing to get to the point where gender just doesn't matter.

More the dedication and quality of whatever the person is doing in whatever activity or job.

Why do you think public art is important?
It gets random people to communicate to each other. Once I saw a firefighter, a homeless person, and a buisnesswoman discussing the meaning of the painting I was working on. So I think public art can make people forget about social borders for a moment and just focus on what anybody has to say, too. And, for a change, this has nothing to do with consumption like advertising or sports, but with a stimulation of the brain and the feelings. It can open horizons that would maybe stay narrow otherwise.

How do you think public art affects the community or city it is displayed in?
A well-working community needs politicians and economy, people and teachers and workers. People to make the system run, feed the people, and teach them. I think the part of an artist in society is to point out themes that may otherwise be swept under the carpet, or to stimulate emotions without aiming for a cause. The way we muralists leave our work, I think for most it's less a displaying but more a merging into urban/social context. For me, I try to make my pieces become part of the surrounding, merge it into the scene, scratch free a part of the history of the place or maybe write a tiny bit of new history.

During my A Word of Art/Pro Helvetia residency at Freddy Sam's in Cape Town, I painted a huge peacock in the neighborhood I was staying in called Woodstock. The house I painted belonged to a Lady called Azeeza. Before I even started the wall she invited me in to have some of her delicious curry and a cool drink and talk about life in Switzerland compared to life in South Africa. As she is teaching the girls the Koran, we also have been talking about religion, and in the end the core of all religions breaks down more or less to the same content. That day I got to know her entire family and many of the other people of the street. I ended up painting a big peacock and each feather contains the name of someone of the community so each one is a small part of the entire thing.

What inspires your artistic process? For example, how do you come up with a piece for a wall, is there a particular feeling you get? Is it planned meticulously or is there more of an organic process?
The wall more or less tells me what to paint. I look at the structure of the wall, its shape, and traces left on it already. The colors it has. I consider what is behind the wall and around it, the community that has to look at it afterward day after day. So I often get to talk to the people walking by, about their life in the area, what animal they like or what animal they "have in them." Then, either I just start and see what happens, or I make a mini sketch and change everything during the process. Each wall I approach in the way it needs and I try not to get too stuck in habits as they rapidly bore me, and I want to keep having fun painting.

What do you hope people get out of your work? Is there a certain feeling, message, or mood you want them to feel or get?
If I'd tell you this, then the readers would not be able to look at it and see for themselves what and if at all my work tells them anything. Self-determined thinking would be something I could reveal, though. That people not only care if I have the permissions and follow the rules, but rather if they themselves prefer a gray wall to a painting without knowing what others think. But that it makes people talk about it, discuss it, share what they see in it, and take it in their everyday life. If this happens face-to-face without computers and Internet in between ... even better! If it inspires someone to give up the job they do and not like and fill their lifetime using it for what makes them really happy and they always wanted to do and never had the guts to jump into the cold water ... wow!

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