Interview MIKHA M.
Date Nov. 2023
Indian graphic designer turned ceramic artist, Latika Nehra on resilience in the face of adversity and why embracing change is instrumental for our creative endeavours.
LFV: Where did you grow up and what was that context like?
L: I grew up in India. I come from the central-northern part; shuttling between small towns in Haryana and Rajasthan but for the most part of my childhood, I was in boarding school and then later graduated from a design school, both really great places and have had an immense impact on me. In a way, my whole life I was rarely at home, I instead grew up with people from very different backgrounds. It is a lengthy task to give a context about growing up in India but what I can say is that it endows you (willingly or unwillingly) with a skillset and resilience that you are unaware of while growing up.
What made you choose Berlin as your second home?
L: Berlin happened just by chance. I came to Germany for a master's program in Design, and post that I wanted to experience working in an international city. What drew me to the city is the fact that I couldn't grasp it in one go. I wanted to figure it out, it's different scenes, and the influx of people with the neighborhoods that keep evolving. Trying to keep a track of new stories being built on old ones, Berlin has a nice pulse and a sense of ease.
Left: Latika Nehra, image by Rick Burger. Right: Stoneware Vase
What were the challenges, and learnings that you have experienced while living in Germany’s capital?
L: One of the most reflective things which happened very early on, perhaps heightened by nostalgia was a deep sense of appreciation for my own country and the culture I grew up in. You know you grow up hearing you're from a 'third-world' but when you start to live in a 'first-world', you realize how that statistic is purely economics missing out on all the other factors that also contribute to establishing a country.
But also, eventually, over time you will find appreciation for the way things are in Germany; its infamous bureaucratic procedures are also why things work, and why you can trust your government – a structure that is failing in so many parts of the world. There's a lot of room for exchange and I feel lucky to be able to reflect on the worst and take (mit nehmen) the best from both worlds.
Latika Nehra, image by Rick Burger
How did that journey influence your practice as an artist but also as an individual?
L: Berlin and its vibrant art scene gave me the courage to push myself out a bit. I always knew it was going to happen, but in 2020 I was literally thrown into it. I lost a lot of work as a freelance designer, and so I had to push my art to the forefront. I was painting but also panicking with a frenzy to sustain myself financially. I knew it was not the right attitude for creating, but it definitely gave me the discipline to work for it.
It was when I switched my medium to ceramics that I found the right balance for creating, not driven out of fear but out of a very clear and instinctive creative flow.
Berlin Trials, 2021 © Latika Nehra
How would you describe the ceramic scene in Berlin?
L: The scene is huge! It has definitely helped me find a sense of home in the medium. You know there is so much growth and exchange when you know a community of people experimenting with the same practice.
From the studio © Latika Nehra
What’s your dream project, and favourite artist?
L: I don't have a favorite artist like I don't have a favorite movie – it's difficult when you appreciate not one but a lot of things. I want to keep going to India to work with different crafts and craftspeople. It's a wealth of knowledge, slowly disappearing and I strongly feel it has lots to teach us, moving forward.
A dream project would be when my work is beyond me and its purpose extends from a sole artist's inquiry to society and its actuality – when it's adventurous.
Is there a song that helps you recall home?
L: Yamore - Salif Keita & Cesaria Evora. It's not one from home, I don't even understand the words but it has this longing in the music that makes me feel at home, like an earth song. But I should also give one from India and since I am a 90’s kid it's a sweet love song: Aankhon Mein by Aryans.
Album cover, Yamore
What’s your advice for someone moving to Berlin?
L: Explore it – it helps you know yourself better but in all it's openness, it's also pretty boxed and in a bubble so it's nice to zoom out your views sometimes. Other than that, don't trash the parks.
In closing, can you tell us a mantra in Indian that sparks your aspirations?
L: “Yeh sab moh maya hai’”, it's all an illusion, things between the sky and earth are transient, nothing is permanent.
Latika Nehra (b.1991, Jaipur, India) is a multi-disciplinary artist, academically trained in visual design and self-taught in the field of ceramics which has been her primary medium since 2020.
She combines the oldest hand-building technique, such as coiling, carving and modelling in textured clay bodies with contrasting new materials and media to create objects that blur the boundary between utilitarian vessels and conceptual art sculpture.
Visit Latika’s site to see her work and Instagram for ongoing activities.
Adriane de Souzaeditorial
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