viva la vida

“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”

– Frida Kahlo.


When I first read the above quote about four years ago, I knew Frida was talking to me. I don’t quite remember how I came across this excerpt from her journal but it was probably on one of those late, sleepless nights I’d nurse my nostalgia by endlessly scrolling through my Tumblr timeline. Naturally, this was followed by hours obsessively poring through Frida Kahlo hashtags – images, quotes, basically anything and everything even remotely associated with Frida.

This woman was phenomenal, it’s no surprise she still has an almost cult-like following to date (Queen Bey included). I think people love her so much because despite all the pain she went through in her life – both physical and emotional – she did more than just survive, she thrived. She made art, and magnificent pieces at that. She’s become one of the quintessential images of a woman who embodies strength – a strong spirit despite her frail and aching body. A woman who didn’t define herself with her life circumstances – a survivor. An artist. Fully embracing the liberties that come with artistic expression – from her honest work depicting her real life experiences, to her personal style and choice of bold jewellery and facial hair – she would purposely darken her eyebrows and upper lip hairs – she lived her life to the fullest.


To give you a better understanding of her life, here is an excerpt of Frida’s life from Wikipedia.

Frida Kahlo de Rivera (July 6, 1907 – July 13, 1954) was a Mexican painter, born in Coyoacán. Perhaps best known for her self-portraits, Kahlo’s work is remembered for its “pain and passion”, and its intense, vibrant colors. Her work has been celebrated in Mexico as emblematic of national and indigenous tradition, and by feminists for its uncompromising depiction of the female experience and form….

When Kahlo was six years old, she contracted polio, which made her right leg shorter and thinner than the left… On September 17, 1925, Kahlo was riding in a bus when the vehicle collided with a trolley car. She suffered serious injuries in the accident (you make skip the next few sentences if you have a weak stomach), including a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a broken pelvis, eleven fractures in her right leg, a crushed and dislocated right foot, and a dislocated shoulder. An iron handrail pierced her abdomen and her uterus, which seriously damaged her reproductive ability.

Although she recovered from her injuries and eventually regained her ability to walk, she was plagued by relapses of extreme pain for the remainder of her life. The pain was intense and often left her confined to a hospital or bedridden for months at a time. She underwent as many as thirty-five operations as a result of the accident, mainly on her back, her right leg and her right foot…


What I’m trying to say is if you can overlook the morbid and traumatic description of her life and see the woman that did more than just overcome her challenges instead, we can agree on a few things. The thing about life challenges is somehow you easily get overwhelmed and think you have no control over your life anymore. We get stuck in, ‘why is this happening to me’ and forget, instead, about ‘how can I fix this’. Because the truth is you have the power to fix whatever it is that is brought your way, it all starts in your mind. Whenever I read Frida’s story, I am humbled to tears just thinking of how this woman overcame all that life brought her way and became a legend in the process.


You may have heard so many times from your elders, ‘stop complaining about this and that, someone out there is wishing they had what you are complaining about’. Case and point – F to the mother loving – rida Kahlo. Be grateful for life. For health. Can you read, see, smell, breathe? Can you understand what I’m writing? Can you think?  Be grateful for a healthy heart, an intact spinal chord. If you can read this, then you are more blessed than millions of others in the world.

My early twenties came with what seemed to be a sudden loss of control of time – everything seemed to be moving terribly fast and it seemed as though my luck was ‘running out’. It was all new, and everyday reminded me of this newness. There was no script, no high school teachers to grade homework on an almost daily basis – keeping track of my progress and calling my parents over to reprimand me if it seemed that my grades were declining even in the least. Increasingly, it became clear that and all I had to fuel myself was myself, and in all honesty, I struggled.

For somebody who endured so much pain in her lifetime, Frida sure was a positive person. Most of the time at least. You see, there is no such thing as luck running out. You take what you can out of every situation and make your own luck. Legends like Frida have to be strong, because, in Beyonce’s wise words, a winner don’t quit on themselves. What if I told you that you can be great? That you already are great? That it all starts in your mind?
I am trying to break down the self limiting beliefs I have picked up over the years and rewire my mind to be better and enable myself to do more. Be more. Be better.
If you fancy an elaborate read about her, please check this link out. And while you’re at it, whether you’re a fan of Lana del Rey or not, listen to her new song! :’)
With Frida’s last painting aptly titled ‘Viva la vida’, I think I will take her advice – live life.
Peace and love ❤
A big thank you to Joyce and Magati for helping me actualize this concept in recreating iconic Frida Kahlo pictures.
Concept and styling: Fatma Sultan (myself).
Photography and art direction: Magati Maosa.
Makeup: Joyce Osodo. Podoa by Joy.
Skirt and blouse: Moderne.
Jewellery: Alan Donovan | Location: The African Heritage House.

know your artist | kangarui

Preamble. Lol.

When I first started this blog (still can’t get used to this word) writing on here, I had a vision and I wasn’t quite sure if it would ever come into fruition. See, in life, you can have a dream but if you don’t work, then it will just be an idea stuck your head. And some times, most times, you will have to wait, to grow, to a level where you can make this dream come true. It starts with preparation.

The main aim of my website is to have a space where whoever is reading can leave feeling lighter, or inspired in some way. (And hopefully in the process read every single one of my posts, like and share with their friends and get the word going *grin*). Other than posting lifestyle articles, I really wanted to have a space to share art. Not just my own, but sort of have a database on here about inspiring artists. People who I feel I can look up to, learn from, and in turn spread the word about their wonderful work.

I’d sketch in my notebooks endless times, and keep writing down lists of goals but I’d never really followed through. I had so many excuses, my biggest one being that I didn’t have a camera and I wasn’t great at Photoshop. It all came down to self doubt. With time, I’ve stopped making too many excuses and have just decided to make the most of what I have, which is my phone. And the biggest blessing God has given me, my brain.

I finally have the courage to take small steps towards making this vision coming true, so let’s see where it goes 🙂 I guess I’ll call this series ‘Know your artist’, where I will have a chat with the artist, take a few pictures and share what inspires me, with you all. I hope you will enjoy this as much as I do.

The first artist I will feature is Rui of Kangarui. I randomly found her page one of those nights where you can’t fall asleep because you’re craving more out of life. In such moments, I find myself going through beautiful imagery until my eyes get itchy, then I know it’s time to turn in. I scrolled for what seemed like hours until I got to the end of her page. My mind was processing this imagery and thinking, ‘Wow. This is a Kenyan brand. A lady owns it, and she has turned her art into a business’. I could see the passion in her work and so I said to myself, ‘I have to meet her’.

We met this past Sunday at an art x fashion pop up at Art Cafe Westgate, she was kind and humble but in a hurry because her dad was visiting from Japan and so she only had a short while to spare. I promised to take only ten minutes of her time, and at the 10 minute 41 second mark we were done. I’m so grateful for her taking the time to chat, looking forward to our next meeting. Here’s the result of our chat 🙂

My questions are in bold and her responses underneath.


Where are you from?

I am from a lot of places because I grew up in different countries but I consider myself Japanese-Kenyan. I grew up in Kenya, moved to Nakuru first when I was four and lived there for about seven years. Both my parents are Japanese.

Where did you get your formal education from?

I went to a design school in England, where I trained as a graphic designer.

In that case, how did you get into art? Your work looks like water colour and mixed media.

I’m a web designer by profession, which is very digital. I wanted to get away from that, and at the time I was living in a small town in Germany. I wouldn’t call myself a painter, but I would buy different fabrics and experiment with mixed media, stamps, painting and linocuts. I love photography as well so I started playing with collages and thought, ‘Hmm, they work well together’. It was very colourful and all about animals because, I guess, I’d started to miss Kenya. It had been about ten years since I’d left Kenya, and that’s how it all started.

Most souvenir shops have similar pieces and hopefully, I’m bringing something new and fresh. The art scene is really growing in Kenya, and it’s great to have diversity. Kenya is more than just ‘kitenge’ and the stereotypical pieces. I want to produce things that are good quality in a modern style, and made in Kenya!

*Fatma high fives at this point and gets all giddy about girl power and the Kenyan art scene growing*

How long have you been working as an artist?

I wouldn’t call myself an artist because this is something I started two years ago as a hobby on the side but I officially launched this brand March 2016.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I like to work out. To be with friends, to travel. I think traveling is the best thing but you need time for that. And I love food, so I eat a lot!

Where do you find inspiration?

My work is all about positive energy. I’m trying to bring out the beauty of Kenya in my art, and express it to not only Kenyans but also people around the world. Spread the good vibes.

*Another giddy, giggly, classic Fatma high-five*

What challenges have you faced?

So many! Every single day. The latest one was packaging of my products.

I think you’ve done a great job.

The challenge is after your product is done and you have to package it for a hundred pieces. You may hire people to help you out, but if you don’t explain properly or if you hire the wrong person you don’t get the right outcome. Sometimes you wish you had three bodies to do everything yourself!

What advice would you give to upcoming artists who want to make a business out of their talents?

Go for it! Just start 🙂

Technical aspects? Do I have to make a financial plan? How do you proceed from the drawing board to a business?

My way was very simple. I had a collection of art work and some American companies liked them, so they carried my products but I would get minimal returns for my work. I had to identify a different market, and so I decided to produce my own work. I went through many manufacturers, and once I found a match they started producing my pieces. I don’t have a financial plan yet, but I’m getting on it. I’m just currently using my savings to run the business. The sales aren’t covering all the costs yet since it’s fairly new, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

Life is all about taking risks, right? You can always dream about something but if you don’t take action it’s never going to happen. If it doesn’t work out, at least you won’t regret it for the rest of your life. So just go for it!

*hugs and awws* 🙂

To summarise what I learned from Rui:

  1. Capital. Have some savings to get your business started.
  2. Identify a manufacturer and compare prices.
  3. Get started and don’t look back!

Make sure to support Rui’s work and buy a phone case or get some cute pieces for your home 🙂 Also, feel free to share this post with your friends and help a sister gain some confidence as well *blush*

Truth and Beauty.

Everyone appreciates Truth and Beauty, but both are understood almost entirely differently amongst us.
This blog will be my way of expressing Truth and appreciating Beauty.

I do not need to explain myself to anyone. My intentions and actions are as a result of either impulse (like my blog, it may have felt right at the moment so I did it) and sometimes a well thought out plan.
Nevertheless, I will explain why I decided to embark on this journey. Yes, blogging seems like a journey to me for I don’t know my destination, but I hope I’m heading towards self expression and growth.

The past year, 2013, has been a roller coaster ride for me. Funny I should use this reference as I’ve never been on one before. I am a Kenyan girl, born and raised in the capital city of this beautiful nation, Nairobi. It would be a lie to say that I have explored this city to it’s fullest. My parents are good people, and practicing Muslims, and so am I. They have always been overprotective of me since a very young age. I am now 23 years old, and they still see me as their little girl.
‘When I gave birth to you, you were so tiny I was scared I’d break you,’ Mama always says. But I’ll bore you with these details in good time.

So much has changed in my life, but more profoundly my perspective on life. And well, I now have a blog! 😀
I’ll share my story with you, for however long I can, in hopes of putting a smile on your face, or at least teaching you something you didn’t know before.
I’m not a great writer, but it’s something I aspire to become. Bear with me until then 🙂

I’ve been racking my brain on what my first post would be for quite a while now, and I think I have the perfect piece.
My dear readers, I share with you ‘Beauty’, a poem by Moshe Safdie. It HAD to be something architecture related, I mean it’s only fair. I am an architect after all, or am I not?

Lots of love, Fatma XX

He who seeks Truth
Shall find Beauty

He who seeks Beauty
Shall find Vanity

He who seeks Order
Shall find Gratification

He who seeks Gratification
Shall be Disappointed

He who considers himself as the servant of his fellow being
Shall find the joy of Self-Expression

He who seeks Self-Expression
Shall fall into the pit of Arrogance

Arrogance is incompatible with nature
Thru the nature of the universe
and the nature of man
we shall seek Truth

If we seek truth we shall find Beauty