Each week in February, Groundswell will recognize individuals who are making major contributions to Black, Green communities and initiatives. This week, we sat down with Ngadi Smart to talk about the role that she hopes her work will play in building stronger communities and a brighter future.

Smart is a passionate advocate who uses her art to positively and intimately represent Black cultures. Her art is transforming the way people think about the subjects of her work and the movements that surround them. She is a Sierra Leonean Visual Artist and Designer based between London, U.K and Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Her practice consists of Illustration, Photography, Design, and Mixed Media.

Groundswell: How would you describe your artistic style?

Smart: I would describe my style as colourful, expressive and playful.

Groundswell: How has your community influenced your work?

Smart: My work is motivated by issues that affect me and the people around me: the representation of Black people, highlighting cultural identity and racial discrimination, as well as themes on Feminism and gender roles. I like to deconstruct mainstream society's preconceived views of what "normal," "beautiful," and "right" are.  

Groundswell: How have environmental concerns (like extreme weather, flooding, extreme heat, blizzards, etc.) impacted your community?

Smart: I am currently in London, U.K, and the effects are not as noticeable right now. However, when I am in Côte d'Ivoire, I am aware of how environmental issues such as coastal erosion can affect a region, particularly in the town of Bassam, in Côte d'Ivoire. 

Groundswell: What efforts or initiatives would you like to see grow in your community and why? 

Smart: More genuine aid, support, care and equality for people of color. There just simply isn't enough.

Groundswell: What role would you like to see art play in your community in the future?

Smart: I think it's really exciting that current African artists are using stereotypes of what being African is through our visual storytelling; I think that through our visual storytelling — whatever theme we choose — and the quality of our work, we are challenging and changing external perceptions of the African continent.

Groundswell: What changes would you like to see take place in order to facilitate stronger communities?

Smart: The change and collective global effort for change that took off after George Floyd's murder. For it to have not lost steam and continue would benefit greatly in strengthening community

Groundswell: If you could look into a window into the future, what would hope to see?

Smart: A more equal, environmentally conscious and caring society.