Nadia Hernandez is a Venezuelan born artist currently based in Sydney. We first became familiar with Nadia after listening to her talk about what was going on in her beloved country of Venezuela, on Triple J’s Hack. After finding her on Instagram it was easy to be enchanted not only by her artwork but also by her passion for Venezuela. Nadia was just named the City of Sydney’s lead artist for New Years Eve 2017 and we are so delighted to see someone with so much passion, drive and talent succeed. We are absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to share her story.
Can you tell us about your Latinx heritage?
I was born in Mérida, Venezuela in 1987, both my parents were born there too. As were my grandparents from my mom’s side, as were their parents in part, I’m not sure about my dad’s side as I don’t know him very well but I’m very curious about my family history and would love to know more about it. It’s very hard though as older family members have passed away. To sum it up, I’m Venezuelan, mestiza, an immigrant hoping to one day return back to the place where I gather my sense of strength from!
When was the last time you visited Venezuela?
I visited Venezuela last year, in November. I hadn’t gone back home in 8 years and it was devastating to see my country in its current state and to know it’s in even worst condition now. However, spending time with my family, heading to El Paramo, breathing in that mountain air, taking photos of daily occurrences, attending protests cemented the importance of returning to a place I feel a part of.
Describe your experience growing up Latinx in Australia?
I moved to Australia when I was 16. I had previously lived in Tucson, Arizona for 8 years while my mom completed her PhD. When I moved to the USA I didn’t know how to speak English fluently, however, this was an easier feat than moving to Australia.
My experiences were a lot different in Tucson, I was surrounded by a wider Latinx community from across Latin America and home didn’t feel as far. Moving to Australia was rather isolating, I’m still reclaiming and learning to express parts of my identity I feel went into hiding while I was working out how to fit in, or perhaps were waiting to flourish…
I feel at times making such a big move at such a young age made me very resilient, and the second move manageable, though I’ve never not felt like an outsider. The extrovert within me learned to use this as an advantage but inside the depths of my experiences and my mind it can often feel very isolating, especially as things get worst in Venezuela, and it becomes difficult to maintain contact or harder to emotionally express and explain what is going on, or the great sense of loss I feel for the place that I love, I can’t express this in my day to day so…Where can that anger go? That sense of hopelessness, intertwined with a pull of resilience and strength because of the acknowledgement that my experiences as a Latina here are privileged in comparison to what my family and friends go through in Venezuela, or new migrants/refugees, or those who are even more marginalised go through today.
There is a lot of political unrest in Venezuela at the moment. This was covered by Triple J’s Hack sometime ago and there was some brief coverage on other News Channels. We really haven’t heard much since. Is there anything you think the Australian people should know about the situation there?
The situation in Venezuela has gotten worse. I would recommend anyone interested in finding out more about what’s happening in detail to head over to caracaschronicles.com and read any of journalist, Naky Soto’s, analysis which gets published in both English and Spanish weekly. Some of the main things to be aware of, are: the rampant hyperinflation which is making the entire nation poorer by the day, the amount of migrants/asylum seekers leaving the country is increasing and in the USA 1 in 5 asylum seekers is Venezuelan, making Venezuela the most common country of origin (source: venezuelablog.org/regional-responses-venezuelan-exodus), and finally the magnitude of electoral fraud committed by the regime, which illegally instated an alternative National Assembly to legislate arbitrarily and in violation of the constitution.
Also, I recommend this podcast which sums up the situation and gives historical context as to how the country got to where it is: https://soundcloud.com/user-989003857/venezuela.
What would you like to see happen in the future for Venezuela?
I would like Venezuela to emerge from this horror, I would like for international awareness to rise and move beyond politics, and corruption because people are barely surviving and with the collapse of a society comes unimaginable disorder and chaos, which echoes loudly throughout the region. I would like for free and direct elections to take place with a new electoral committee, without political prisoners, without censorship and coercion from those forcefully in power. I would like for the country to prosper, and national production to exist and thrive so that the country can move forward and provide equal opportunities to everyone. I would like justice to fall upon all those responsible for the collapse of the nation, theft of resources, rampant corruption, and deaths of many. In all seriousness whether it happens tomorrow or in a million years this is what I would like to see happen in the future for Venezuela.
Do you have a lot of family left back in Venezuela?
I don’t have a particularly big family but I’m very close to my grandparents and they are still there, as well as aunts, uncles, cousins, friends but it’s my grandparents I miss and stay in touch with the most.
What do you miss about Venezuela?
Everything that is Venezuela. Specifically, the time when the fog begins to fall in the afternoons in my hometown and pastelitos.
How do you stay connected with your Venezuelan culture?
Through my work, it allows me to maintain a constant link and explore and analyze different aspects of my culture. Talking to my mom and grandparents is also a way for me to stay connected, staying up to date with current events also helps, it’s my personal choice to delve into and understand the complexity of a place, its history and its people so this connection is always evolving.
Do you feel like your culture has always played a part in your work?
My understanding and exploration of my culture, through a diasporic lens, has not only played a part in my work but it is the reason why I started making art.
You are a woman of many talents and work with many mediums. Do you have a favourite medium right now?
Right now it is swimming! Lol. I don’t have a favourite medium in terms of my art practice, but I really love working with textiles, I’ve been doing so for a very long time and have a BFA in Fashion Design! I also like painting big walls as long as I get to retain my sense of power and artistic integrity.
A lot of your recent artwork has messages in Spanish through it. Can you tell us about this series?
Most of my work uses text in Spanish. I’d say the text is probably the most meaningful component of the artwork for me, each person can take what they want from it. Usually, I will offer a translation sometimes I won’t, the viewer can delve into the meaning or not. Also, text in Spanish is to say, that even though I’m in Australia I’m still looking towards home, I’m pointing the work in that direction.
Are there any Latinx artists that inspire you?
Too many, so here’s a list of some off the top of my head:
Angela Bonadies, Claudia Nicholson, David Siqueiros, Sol Calero and Diego Rivera.
Murals have always had a significant meaning in South America. They were/are often used as a means of expression during political unrest. You painted a mural in Toowoomba earlier this year with the word ‘Libertad’ spread across it, in reference to Venezuela. How did it feel to paint a mural with a message about Venezuela but in a place so physically distant from Venezuela?
I felt that the message even though it is dedicated to Venezuela, transcends space and creates intrigue by being in a different language. I thought to myself that since it was an international arts festival then the message could too cross borders. The best and most powerful part of this experience was that while working on the mural two local women upon finding out what the word meant, told me that a great sense of freedom took place inside the building it was painted on. That it was a club and that there were great parties and one of them had belly danced on top of a table…and that’s the thing, the work can be relevant to many while simultaneously creating space for a particular story to be told.
We have seen your designs explode all over the internet this year. From your designs being sported by Client Liaison at Splendour in the Grass, to designing illustrations for Slowdown Studio. What more has Nadia Hernandez got in store for the future?
I have an exhibition coming up next April at Firstdraft which I’m really looking forward to and will be sharing that process soon, so stay tuned!