by Kadija Osman
Cliffannie Forrester. Remember that name? Because I certainly do. This young girl completed her life goal at the young age of 18 and went viral for her achievement. That’s something not many of us can say. A painting of hers called, “Uganda” was hung in the The Metropolitan Museum of Art all thanks to this program called “P.S Art.” which allows students in New York City to submit their art work and have a chance for it to be hung in the MET. Her beautiful painting of a young black girl blissfully looking across became quickly viral, allowing her to become featured in top publications like Elle, Nylon and even Huffington Post and became an inspiration to teens across the world!
This all happened two years ago around this time so it only made sense for me to wonder, “How’s Cliffannie doing now?”. Luckily, I was able to reach out to her and ask her a few questions.
Kadija: Can you tell me a little about yourself?
Cliffannie: Hey! My name is Cliffannie Forrester and I’m an artist and student from Brooklyn, NY! They’re isn’t much to say about myself. Someday I hope to become an Art Teacher or continue making work to have a living. I don’t know if this is important but I love the show Stranger Things and everyone should watch it. I also skate at Chelsea Piers skatepark so that’s one thing I do other than painting!
Kadija: How do you describe your art?
Cliffannie: Hmm, I’d have to say that my art is kinda messy. I never really know direction to take it in and so it’ll stay messy as hell until I decide how I would like execute it!
Kadija: As a fellow woman of colour, I can imagine how hard is is to receive recognition so when your art piece got picked to be showcased at the MET, what did that mean to you?
Cliffannie: Okay so first of all, I cried.. like a big ass baby. I’d say it was a very touching moment in my life because it’s all I ever dreamt about. I wanted to say one day that my work was featured in the MET. My illustration teacher at the time was extremely confident in me and I honestly don’t know where I’d be without her help and guidance.
Kadija: When people look at your work, what do you want them to feel/takeaway?
Cliffannie: I honestly want them to interpret it into whatever they feel. When I made this piece, I wanted to inspire the black community and make them feel empowered. It wasn’t until my piece started to go viral on social media that I saw sooooo many different interpretations and I thought they were all beautiful and important.
Kadija: I read in one of your past interviews that the girl in the painting is a real girl in that you met while in Uganda! Tell me more about and how/why were you inspired to create a painting based off of her? Have you been able to go back and show her your work?
Cliffannie: Yes, the girl is real! My friend Ryan Bissoon took a photograph of her while I traveled around Uganda. I couldn’t really speak to the girl because of our different dialects but I gave her a hug! I haven’t been able to go back to show her but I’m currently working on another piece of a girl I met in Uganda and she meant the entire world to me so I’m going to make it my goal to go back one day!
Kadija: Is there anyone who inspired to start thinking about art as more than just a hobby?
Cliffannie: I would say my Illustration teacher Mrs. Jimenez. Lord knows what I would do if I didn’t have her by my side throughout the 3 years I sat in her class. She was so passionate about art and her students work that I hoped I can be just as passionate someday.
Kadija: It was around this time 2 years ago that you’ve accomplished your life long goal. Tell me, what has changed and what’s the next step?
Cliffannie: A lot has changed since then, especially my motivation to create work. As a full time college student it’s super hard in my opinion to create work and also focus on your school work at the same time. I tried it once and I hated it. I didn’t feel confident or creative so I decided that I should start creating my work in the summertime when I’m free from school and all my responsibilities.
The next step is start opening up my own Gallery and submitting my pieces into shows so that they’re able to be seen more. Many people are so use to seeing “Uganda” that I think they forget about my other pieces of work. I would really love to show the world what I’m capable of!
MEET THE WRITER:
Kadija Osman is 17-year-old writer born and raised in Toronto. She is in her senior year of high school at Etobicoke Collegiate Institute and starts her first year at Ryerson University in September. She is an aspiring journalist and mostly focuses on writing articles. Being a Muslim girl and having an interest in these things and pursuing them in life is seen as odd and almost always frowned upon, especially within the Somali community which makes her want to break free from that. Kadija wants to prove that she can love art and the entertainment industry and still keep a close connection with her God.
firstname.lastname@example.org | @kadija.osman