Meet Dina Nur Satti, a Brooklyn-based ceramic artist originally from Sudan and Somalia.
How did you get into ceramics?
I don’t remember the moment that sparked my interest in ceramics to be honest. It was like I had this idea in a dream and it kept coming up so I decided to enroll in an introductory course and I just followed the evolution of that curiosity.
What does your creative process look like?
When I design a piece, there is of course an aesthetic element, but underneath that I also focus on how the piece makes me feel. The only way I can really explain it is that the piece must bring me a sense of pleasure and satisfaction. Many forms of art around the world have a name for a feeling that you receive, for instance, from listening to an exceptional piece of music; Portuguese has saudade and Arabic, tarab. I have yet to find a word for this in ceramics, but I like to think of it as feeling an element of the divine.
How do you find your wellness, state of mind and/or mental health shapes your work?
My relationship with ceramics and art is that my evolution as an artist is synonymous with my evolution as a person. My artistic journey presents me with personal challenges that I have to overcome in order to unlock the next level of my creative potential. Ceramics for me is as such a self-work practice as it is a craft.
Do you find working with your hands provides a unique outlet?
It’s a unique outlet when you are creating and discovering new forms. There is a beautiful meditative aspect about it. But when you’re faced with deadlines and production schedules the experience of creation can have anxiety and stress attached to it like anything else. People have a tendency to think that ceramic artists are constantly in a meditative state while creating, but we also have to answer emails and run our businesses like everyone else...while producing everything by hand as well!
Your ceramics and your indigenous culture are so interwoven - can you tell us more about your journey growing up with the Somali and Sudanese traditions of your parents and how that has impacted your present day ceramics practice?
My ceramic work is deeply inspired by the cultures I come from. My mother is Somali and my dad is Sudanese and the ceramics of those cultures continuously inspire my designs. My ceramic work is as much a pathway for me to learn more about my heritage as it is an homage to the cultures I come from.
I see my journey with ceramics as a form of healing for me. There were so many layers of colonization in Sudan and Somalia and so much language, rituals, and cosmologies that were lost.
While I was studying the politics, history, and culture of Africa and the Middle East in college, I took a course in African Art History that had a very deep impact on me. I learned that artifacts that we today considered traditional African art were actually functional pieces that were an integral part of these societies’ operations. There were of course certain ceremonial or sacred items that were reserved for particular rites or times of the year, but even then, they too served a function. We can learn so much about the soci-political structures and traditions of pre-colonial Africa through the artifacts they left behind. After that realization, I started to see the ceramics of my childhood as remnants of my indigenous cultural heritage that had survived cultural colonization.
What's your greatest source of inspiration?
Music- I curate playlists that help me drop into the zone when I want to explore new forms.
How do you make time for learning new things and growing as a person and artist?
Much of my inspiration and art is inspired by histories, myths, and symbolism from the ancient world, particularly from Africa. It’s a continuous passion in my life so the impulse to learn more and weave it back into my art feels very natural.
Do you ever find yourself in a creative rut? If so, how do you get out of it?
I find that creative ruts happen if I don’t get enough new experiences, inspiring new information, or I’m not reading enough. So if I feel stuck I leave the studio and explore something new. An afternoon at The Metropolitan Museum of Art also helps!
How have you been staying productive in these uncertain and scary quarantine times?
I think being in Brooklyn and being surrounded by artists that I have inspiring conversations with on a daily basis keeps me excited to create. Brooklyn has a very unique creative energy that launches you towards expression.
What is the role of art in your life?
My life and art are deeply intertwined. The purpose of my life, even outside of ceramic is an artistic exploration. In my opinion art is the heart of any culture and society, but we are now living in a reality that no longer understands the spiritual grounding force of art as ritual for communities.
Who is your favorite artist? Or who has been inspiring you lately?
I honestly don’t have a favorite artist! But Afrofuturistic imagery and 70s si-fi art are currently some favorites.
What does unwinding mean to you? How do you unwind?
Lounging around drinking tea and burning incense!
What's your current obsession?
Brie and fig jam on toasted sourdough
Favorite quote?“Ritual is called for because our soul communicates things to us that the body translates as need, or want, or absence. So we enter into ritual in order to respond to the call of the soul.” - Malidoma Patrice Somé
Song on repeat right now?
Rosa by Rainer Scheurenbrand
Best life hack?
Use a spoon to peel ginger
Person you admire?
Focus on one thing at a time- I have a lot of trouble with this so I have ton continuously remind myself to stay focused on a task so I can clear it from my mind.