Kenya Parry Josiah, is a 29-year-old artist living in London. Kenya’s work is inspired by folk art, her Caribbean heritage, love of colour and life. I first encountered Kenya’s art like many things I consume these days though Instagram. The difference was, I was instantly captivated by her quirky style and spent ages scrolling through her page @kenyajosiah looking at what she describes in her bio as ‘pretty things’ and I would have to concur that the page is full of pretty things.
Kenya loved art at school and having creative license to draw on the wall whenever she felt like it. However, Kenya’s talent is self-grown after GCSE she never attended any fancy art colleges and laid down the paint brushes to focus on her working life. But like many artists the passion to create was never diapered it was during a period in Barcelona, Kenya recalls the passion coming back through trips to galleries with a friend who was an artist, and experiencing new cultural perspectives.
Kenya has a distinct style with a Latin-American, Caribbean colour palate that is sure to brighten up anyone’s day never mind their walls. She beautifully tells the stories of local people, places, and communities in a way that is holistic and representative. From market stalls in Ghana to bowls of fruit Kenya depicts life in a similar way to her fashion in her own colourful way. Kenya discussed how the most beautiful art can be found in markets on stalls created by real people, not in galleries and when I asked Kenya if the work was political, she stated:
“A lot of Art is deep but I just wanted mine to be light, joyful, and happy to make people feel a really good sense of connection…”
It is clear to me that Kenya is heading for big things in her artistic career with one of her most recent projects including a collaboration with Enfield Caribbean Association, on ‘Windrush Wonders – Tales of Travel and Triumph’ a children’s book written by Kamilah McInnis and Illustrated by Kenya Josiah. The book was realised in line with the 75th Anniversary of Windrush and tells children the story of the famously known ‘Windrush Generation’ who left the Caribbean to come to the UK on HMT Empire Windrush. These individuals famously filled the post-war job vaccines in Britain, doing incredible work in many organisations and notably the newly established NHS, unfortunately, their stories have rarely been told. This story is one that Kenya has a personal connection with as her own grandmother’s Windrush story is featured in the book. Kenya has recently been going into schools and working alongside students making sure that these stories. Kenya stated, “This wasn’t taught when I was at school, helping us understand our history and why we are here.”
Kenya’s drive for artistic opportunities for everyone is truly inspiring and infectious. I came away from the conversation feeling liberated and for someone who draws stickmen badly felt I had potential. As Kenya reassured me art is not about having great drawing abilities like we are taught at school, it is bigger and more free than that.
“Art is supposed to feel liberating, at school, so much emphasis is on drawing an apple perfectly, perfect drawing doesn’t make an artist and kids must be given creative opportunities.”
If you are looking to buy art and prints to decorate halls and house share walls, Kenya’s work is a perfect option. Priding herself on reasonable pricing so that everyone can access and enjoy prints she encourages us to “invest in a print that speaks to you, as opposed to something that is in fashion.” After all, if we can learn anything from Kenya it is that the rule book for art should be thrown in the bin and that individuality is the key component to good art. So maybe it is time for you to dust off the pens and start selling your doodles at the market stalls, as Kenya says that’s what she would rather see.
“I’d much rather go to a market than a gallery any day, I love that it is done by normal people…”
If you would like to see more of Kenya’s work you can follow her on Instagram @kenyajosiah or better yet you can check out her Christmas pop-up at Selfridges, London this December.
By Rachel Elizabeth Otterson
Art and Photography Editor