Dina Nur Satti is a Brooklyn-based ceramic artist originally from Sudan and Somalia. She was raised in France and Kenya and has called NYC home for 16 years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in International & Intercultural Studies with a focus on the cultures of Africa and the Middle East. Her pursuit of ceramics was born out of her studies in African art and pre-colonial African societies, and an interest in learning how ritual objects and spatial design elevate experiences.
She often travels throughout Africa from Morocco to Ethiopia to meet with communities upholding ancient methods of craft, and to research the use of objects in ceremonial traditions. Dina connected to clay as a medium not only because of a passion for design and ceramics. Ceramics is a vessel, a container through which she explores ideas of personal purpose and growth, as well as our collective transitions, cultural storytelling, and communal rituals.
Q: WHAT STORY ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL THROUGH YOUR WORK?
A: I think art in Western society exists in a vacuum. We see art as an indulgent and frivolous thing that serves no essential purpose when it comes to our survival because Western society has focused on developing its experience of reality solely in the physical realm. We are unable to see the importance of the intangible world and how it affects us, so when we think of art, we see it only for its physical value.
However, in traditional societies, art is the umbilical cord of a society, and its spiritual center. We don't value spirituality in the Western world, therefore we don't value art because art is of spirit. What we can learn from traditional societies is that they understood that in order to create an experience of the transcendental in a community of people, we must create a multisensory experience that transports them into other realms, connecting us to a reality beyond our own. And the way to do that is to create communal rituals that bring together various forms of art that create an experience that is greater than the sum of its parts. Through music, dance, objects, and adornments these art forms create context for each other that tell a much more complex narrative than if they existed all on their own. Really, this is what defines a culture. So traditional societies don't see objects as stagnant things to be looked at, but items that hold an immense power to contribute to the collective healing of a community.
Q: WHERE HAVE YOU LIVED AND HOW DO THESE PLACES INSPIRE YOUR WORK?
A: My father is Sudanese and my mother Somali. I was born in Chad but raised primarily in France and Kenya. African cultures and traditions were part of our family dinner conversations- my mother has always been fascinated by the movements of indigenous people across Africa and would take me with her to African home decor and antique stores in Kenya, even though I complained and didn't appreciate it when I was very young!
Part of my father's career was spent doing cultural preservation and education for UNESCO in East Africa, and I would travel with him to see rock art and ancient towns and sites. I was raised in a very global and culturally aware environment, and one of my greatest aesthetic influences is the coastal crafts and traditional decor of Kenya's Swahili coast on the Indian Ocean.
Q: OF ALL ARTISTIC FORMS, WHAT WAS THE ALLURE WITH CERAMICS?
A: I think of ceramics as one of the great equalizers of art forms. It's something that belongs to almost every culture in the world. It's university is what draws me to it.
Q: WHAT TYPE OF COLLECTOR DO YOU IMAGINE ACQUIRING YOUR WORK?
A: Anyone who resonates with the reverence of ancient cultures and underrepresented narratives.