Tyra Naidoo Seeks to Represent the Desi Community Through Her Art

Tyra Naidoo is a fine artist, model and gallery manager at Eclectica Design and Art. We had the privilege of asking her a few questions about her work.

How do you find the difference between creating your own art pieces and being a part of another type of art creation in modelling?

Pressured and sentimental in different ways: making my own work for public view, I feel great pressure as it reflects me – my ethics and views, but more so a highly personal experience. My concepts and works come from an emotional space and exposing that to an audience, especially within a capitalist art market is like baring your soul for judgment. However, it is this that brings sentimentality. These works have allowed me to navigate through tough issues that I may not have been able to figure out any other way.

Modeling has given me the opportunity to be a part of other’s creations, their artworks. Something I find sentimental, as they bring me into their process, their hard-work, their aims and dreams. I’m lucky to be with Fantastic (Agency) as Fani works hard to find us jobs that align with our personalities. I have learnt so much about art forms foreign to me and gained skills about acting, photography, design, gold-plating jewellery and more. An insight I am grateful for. Each shoot I’m in is sentimental to me for this reason and also what is pressuring. It’s challenging as you want to do your best in making this artists’ work all they envisioned.

a portrait of Tyra Naidoo
Photographed by Katinka Bester – @katinkabester / Styled by Fani Sergerman – @youngfanisun / HMU: Gareth Coleman – @thelastblackmage.
an image representative of a boat by Tyra Naidoo
You Came Here On A Fucking Boat – Wood and cement – 2017 – 178 x 178 cm, 250 H – Featured in Edge of a Thread group – exhibition at Eclectica – Contemporary.

In addition to your art you also currently work as the gallery manager at Eclectica Design and Art. How do you find working with curation as well as creation?

I suppose I see curation as an aspect of creation and/or at times creation in itself. When creating works I often focus on a few pieces at a time and there’s a curation between them, in fact, there’s even curation within a single work. Curating on its own is like bringing together all components of a thought, concept or argument, which isn’t easy when handling others works as I feel like the story-teller or bridge of connection. It’s interesting though when working with other artists in that way it brings duplicity to their work as they have all their intentions and mine and my colleague’s insight into how those intentions or other aspects of their work relate and can convey a larger narrative.

An art piece featured at a group exhibition
Grey Areas – Print on Chiffon – 2017 – Dimensions vary .
Featured in Unfair a group exhibition at Ruth Prowse by Brett Seliers

I understand with your art that you explore the cross culture of your Indian and South African heritage. How do you feel that has influenced your way of thinking and artistic expression?

Well, it’s a huge part of my identity and so it intrinsically influences my thinking. Part of this intrinsic influence is the presence of struggle, which informs a lot of my life experiences. Don’t get me wrong; I love both the South African and Desi parts of my heritage and their overlapping. But the marginalizing of this heritage is what mostly informs my artistic practice now as I interrogate and dissect it in order to move forward and heal, or at least attempt to.

However, I don’t always nor am I limited to making work that is only about my amalgamated identity. I think it’s important when looking at the creation of works to see the artist/author for who they are (i.e. their positionality) but to not fetishize their works and culture, or presume that they actively are working with topics of marginalization. Recently, myself, Talia Ramkilawan and Githan Coopoo were on a panel discussion (hosted by What Makes Us Girls’ Mr & Mrs Leal) and were laughing saying how, “Sure, I might want to smell like turmeric, but I don’t want you to want/presume me to”.

an imprint an arm asking; Are you Indian?
Are You Indian? – Digital photograph of series from – process / performative piece / 2016 – ongoing / Dimensions varied / Published in Not Your Normal / Zine (available at the Book Lounge.)

What are some of the artists that you have been influenced by? 

Anish Kapoor, Ana Mendeita, Hasan and Husain Essop, Sheela Gowda, Nalini Malani, Shilpa Gupta, M.I.A., Do Ho Suh, Rachel Whiteread, Elias Hansen, Rupi Kaur, Jasmine Kaur Sehra, Iman Issa, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Bouchra Khalili, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and some of the amazing people in my life who are also artists like Xhanti Zwelendaba, Mitchell Gilbert, Sitaara Stodel, Talia Ramkilawan and more.

Tyra Naidoo posing on her haunches in front of a pink screen.
For Nataal Media / @nataalmedia – Photographed by Katinka Bester / @katinkabester – Styled by Fani Sergerman / @youngfanisun – HMU: Gareth Coleman / @thelastblackmage

Lastly, for viewers of your art, what is the experience that you hope to convey with the various forms of art that you are involved in? 

Right now I think the main thing I’m trying to convey is simply just representation of the Desi community. How we are capable of so much and exist in complex ways beyond the shitty stereotypes. It would be amazing if someone ignorant saw my work and thought twice before fetishizing or making a racist comment. It would equally mean so much to me to have another Desi woman see me modelling and think, despite their dark complexion like mine, they could model too. Whenever I saw Desi models, they were always fair-skinned and it made it daunting for me to get into the industry. More than anything I want my community to feel empowered, secure and be able to stand together in their nuances.


An artwork by Tyra Naidoo called an ode to desi woman
An Ode to Desi Women – An Ode to Me – (An ode to the Tantric Devi Series, Guler Workshops 1800s.) – Etching, aquatint and Indian ink on Rosapina Fabriano – 2018 – Featured in the Not Your Normal group exhibition at Eclectica print
Levis Altered Collection – photographed by Luke Doman / @lukebelldoman – Styled by Sarah Hugo-Hamman / @sarah_hugo_hamman and Seraaj Semaar / @seraajxsemaar_95.


Tyra Naidoo walking in a dark green outfit at a fashion show
Good Good Good / @goodgoodgoodstore – by Daniel Sher at SA Menswear Fashion Week / @samenswearweek – Photographed by Simon Deiner / @sdrphoto
an art piece made of a galvanized steel ladder
No Path – Galvinised Steel – 2017 – 68 x 400 cm

a sketch of a ladder by Tyra Naidoo

a portrait of Tyra Naidoo for the talisman for rain fw18 collection
Talisman for Rain FW18 collection by Pichulik / @pichulikafrica – Styled by Nadya Von Stein and Katherine Mary Pichulik – HMU: Amori Birch – Photographed by Alix Cowie / @alixrosephoto.

To see more of her work follow her on Instagram and see her work on the Eclectica Pint Art Gallery website.

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