25th Jul 2023

Xhibit is an open call opportunity and annual exhibition, coordinated by Arts SU – the Student’s Union for University of the Arts London. The exhibition aims to platform the vast diversity of practice at UAL, functioning as a space for cross-college collaboration and representation. Each year, Cass Art awards one Xhibit artist a £500 materials bursary. We caught up with 2023 winner Rihanata Bigey, who studied MA Fine Art at Central Saint Martins UAL to find out more about her work…

Hi Rihanata! Congratulations on winning the Cass Art Bursary Award at Xhibit. Can you tell us a little bit about you and your creative journey so far?

My name is Rihanata Bigey, I am a multidisciplinary artist, born in Burkina-Faso and raised in France, I received a Diploma in plastic art from the Ecole des Beaux Art Nantes (France) in 2017 and a MAFA for Central Saint Martins in 2023. My creative practice explores cross Cultural identity, gender, belonging, race through diverse forms of symbolism that I represent through a diverse range of mediums materials and technics such as painting, drawing collage, weaving, sculpture and more. Through the prism of femininity, I explore the iconographic significance of the representation and body of black women through time, history and within a multicultural society. I question the multiple social constructs, misconceptions and stereotypes attached to the representation of black women.

How have you enjoyed your time on the MA Fine Art course at Central Saint Martins, and how has your work developed during your time there?

Studying the MAFA at Central Saint Martins has been a fantastic and challenging experience. The course has given me the freedom to experiment and develop my practice in a diverse range of studios and media. The MA Fine Art course has been an intensive creative journey in which I have learned to articulate the research and production that has shaped my vision as an artist. The creative environment encourages me to explore all ideas and thoughts and has challenged me and my work.

Your winning work Hybrid is a non-human entity that explores the representation of the Black female image in both Western and African cultures. You explore this subject through the lens of femininity, identity, gender, and belonging. Has creating these works been a cathartic experience for you and what do you hope the audience will take from your works?

Throughout my work I create something that is deeply personal to me, my work is my voice and it is a way of communicating within society. Exploring subjects such as femininity, gender, race and belonging is a way of working on myself and my personal experiences. I hope that the audience who sees it feels drawn outside of their general perception and view that they step into the unfamiliar. Within my work, I aim to bring the viewer into an intriguing and curious journey into the visual representation of the work as well as the authenticity of the subject matter. I create work that disrupts, reassembles and challenges a certain social construct and conscience, trying to use my work as a vehicle of change.

Can you tell us a bit about your other works and what you are currently working on?

My recent work 'Aura of a body and SAVAGE' explores the representation of black women, their iconographic significance in a cross-cultural and historical context, as well as their representation, icon, object and subject of fantasy. The work embodies a process of deconstructing stereotypes associated with the representation of black women in collective and public memory by exploring inherited colonial languages and their hidden meanings attached to the culture and narrative of Africa and its diaspora. The works expose the multiple layers of visible and invisible trauma that surround the body and representation of black women, while celebrating black women in all their diversity.

You work in such a variety of ways and with a diverse range of mediums! You speak about different mediums as a language to communicate each idea. How do you decide which medium will best communicate an idea you are working on?

My work is very much inspired by the aesthetics of traditional African art, and the multiple materials, mediums and techniques present in my work are often linked to a certain context and a certain type of culture, which I extract and use in my own way. Materials play an essential role in the development of a work, as they give substance to the subject. My creative process consists of using all the knowledge and experience, a combination of techniques and materials that define me as an artist. I'm curious to constantly explore new ways of doing things and I'm very attracted to the idea of an infinite combination of ideas around mediums. I enjoy exploring mediums such as sculpture, painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, video and techniques such as weaving, collage and sewing.

Do you have any advice for people considering studying MA Fine Art at CSM?

The MA Fine Art course at Central Saint Martins challenges and encourages you to explore different ideas and approaches to art. It is a place where you have the freedom to explore, experiment and develop your creative process. The course offers you the time, space and support to develop your practice, as well as opportunities that will help shape your vision and autonomy as an artist.

And finally, what’s next for you?

I will be taking part in a group show entitled 'Double Self' at Rele Galley in Lagos in August 2023, as well as another group show at Tension Fine Art Gallery in London.

Thanks Rihanata!

Find more of Rihanata’s work @rihanatabigey on Instagram.

Feeling inspired?

Read our interview with Marina Tasca, winner of the Cass Art Bursary Award at Xhibit 2022, and more artist interviews on the Cass Art blog