A Look at Kula Dana by Nur Danya
Out in the sun sits a girl, painting to 80s hits and sometimes a playlist made by her younger sister. She paints an abstract map — commonplace objects, appeals to preserve our natural environment, and flickering memories of our Maldivan past. This is Danya, an emerging young artist whom you might know as Kula Dana.
“I wanted to inspire change.”
In 2016 in the hopes of becoming an environmentalist, Danya began an internship at the Climate Change Department of the Ministry of Environment and Energy. After an eternity of sitting at a desk and countless spreadsheets later, Danya decided; no more!
Research into alternate options led her to Singapore’s LASALLE College of the Arts to pursue a degree in interior design. During her first year, inspiration struck through a module on 2D art where she was exposed to a multitude of mediums and art styles. She began creating art and posting it on Instagram where the encouragement of family and friends led to the creation of Kula Dana in 2019 — a platform solely focused on “inspiring the unthinkable.”
“When the world zigs, zag.”
That’s something Danya’s lecturer once said, a quote she tries to embody in her work (though one could argue that this philosophy applies to life as well). Danya used to be very rigid in her work, but it’s taken a turn towards the opposite direction now — a lot more loose and free.
Yet even the most abstract and impulsive work has a process. For Danya, it all starts with a brainstorming session usually with her brother, who chimes in and shoots ideas for things to paint.
Afterwards, she scribbles stuff, a bunch of keywords and color tests on a notebook, before beginning to paint on paper, canvas or cardboard.
“I’ve learnt to be inspired by things around me, especially during the lockdown when we were all confined to our homes,” reveals Danya. “Since I was not able to go out and buy canvases, I started painting on other materials like cardboard and fused plastics, which I really enjoyed.”
Another thing born from the pandemic and utilizing what was available is ‘Raajje Inspired Earrings’, a game changer in her journey that quickly gained popularity within the community. These funky earrings were made out of old scrapbooks and scraps of boards Danya had used for her interior design model, turning out to be a brilliant idea to give waste a groovy new life.
“Inspiration – it’s all around us! We don’t really realize it but what we see, hear, touch, smell and taste can really help channel fresh ideas.”
Danya comes from a background that is not at all far removed from the arts scene in Maldives. In fact her inspiration comes from her parents, her siblings Amr and Jun, her uncle Azza — a remarkable artist himself — and other various members of her family. What sets her apart though, one might observe is her endeavor to go beyond the common inspirations of the natural world of our beautiful country and into the tradition, culture and daily aspects of the Maldivian household and walk of life.
“I like to inspire the unthinkable and provoke the unbidden,” she says. “Visualize the unseen and voice the unspoken, for, what is art anyway?’
If you peer a bit closer at her work, you might notice an undercurrent of activism at the crux of many of Danya’s pieces. As an interior designer, Danya says she’s passionate about designing to mitigate and adapt to the impact of climate change through assimilation and creation of spaces that are respectful towards nature. This is especially relevant here in the Maldives, a low lying nation where the effects of climate change would invariably be catastrophic.
She tries to use her work to empower artists and non-artists alike, to inform people about the issues facing our country and the world, in order to adequately prepare to meet the uncertain future.
“I believe that art is more than just something beautiful – it’s powerful. It shapes and reflects our world.”
To keep up with Kula Dana, follow her on Instagram.