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Interview MIKHA M.
Date MAY 2021

SHERIDA KUFFOUR
      In conversation with human, graphic designer, and writer, Sherida shares with us her personal narrative, the perceptions of others about the notion of “fitting in” while addressing the lack of diversity in the design industry. 

Alan Watts writes “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” Some change countries once, or twice in their lifetime but not Sherida. She has been moving and living between different places and cultures for more than once – 4 different countries to be exact. For the designer and writer, home to Sherida in it's true meaning is when fear cease to exist.

As a designer, Sherida has worked with renowned names like the New African Woman magazine where she directed twelve bi-monthly issues from photoshoots to print, to correcting final copy. Beside her design practice, she also use the power of words writing prolifically about racial, feminist and design-orientated topics.

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© Sherida Kuffour

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Home, Ghana © Sherida Kuffour

LFV: Where did you grow up, and where do you currently reside?

S: I typically ask people how much time they have and if they prefer the short or long version. The short one being that I grew up in The Hague, then moved to England with my mother and two sisters at 11/12. The long version to this quite difficult question can be listed like this: That I was born and partially raised in Rotterdam (NL), then made a tiny wee jump to Schiedam (NL) with my foster mother, then I was sent to live in Kumasi (GH) with my grandmother for 4 years, then went back to The Netherlands at the age of 8 to The Hague where most of my memories are formed, then we relocated to Liverpool (UK) as an early to late teen, then headed down to Reading couple of years before finally moving myself to London for University. Then a need for air, space and familiarity led me back to Amsterdam for my Masters degree, and finally moved to Zürich where I currently reside.

“AS I EXPLAIN MY NARRATIVE FURTHER TO PEOPLE, I AM LEARNING TO NOT SEE MY PAST AS AN INFLICTION, OR A STUMBLING BLOCK TO MY ‘FITTING IN’”

What challenges and learnings have you experienced in terms of living, and working abroad?

S: For someone who doesn’t like to travel or migrate very much, I’ve done a lot of it, which has taught me a lot about my habits, rituals and ideas surrounding the various identities I fit into in different social, professional and political contexts. The biggest challenge so far has been trying to grapple with my personal definition of “normal”. But I suppose any migrant will tell you about the struggles of not quite fitting in, or the feeling that you don’t belong anywhere. For me there are gaps in my story that people can never quite piece together properly. Now being in Switzerland, people say “Oh but you have such a British accent”, “But I thought you were Dutch? or was it Ghanaian?” “But wait where does this part fit in, or that part slot in?”

As I explain my narrative further to people, I am learning to not see my past as an infliction, or a stumbling block to my “fitting in”, but rather see the many stories I hold within me, which is now influencing my design and publishing practice in a very special way.

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Home in Zürich, Switzerland © Sherida Kuffour

Breaking from the confining norms amplifies creativity; how does your experience abroad and the new culture influences you, and your practice?

S: Graphic Design, and the Design industry at large has long had a problem with its narrowed selection of those who are allowed to participate in it. In a sobering sense, having worked across so many countries has allowed me to see that this industry is very much the same everywhere. I used to have such a reverence for design, a specific kind of design; strict and modernist in nature.

Working in London, and for clients like Barclays bank and Natwest on campaigns and various brand developments solidified my professional capacity, but working in Amsterdam gave me the looseness, and a sense of fun and responsibility I craved from Design. I’d say working in Amsterdam revolutionised the way I considered design, that was subversive and more in line with the way I might want to work for the rest of my life. The tension of having worked in London and Amsterdam has definitely made me confident and not afraid to take risks.

Poems conveying the manifestation of love, freedom and the last purpose of anger are pieced together with recollection of personal memories in this heart-warming book titled ‘Chasing Lizards and Other Memories’. Sherida’s writing depicts true events through different narrational lenses as an indirect analysis of micro-moments that fit into broader political realities with unflinching intensity, as she describes it.

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Editorial: Chasing Lizards and Other Memories 2018 © Sherida Kuffour

“I LOOK FOR KINSHIP NOW, TRUST AND VULNERABILITY WITHIN MY CIRCLES AND A TRADE THAT IS MEANINGFUL TO ME.”

What does home mean to you?  

S: Home to me means no fear. Having internalised a lot of xenophobia in my youth, and subsequently looking for a direct sort of brick and mortar home, I’m grateful to come to this understanding that the country or city itself doesn’t matter that much anymore. I look for kinship now, trust and vulnerability within my circles and a trade that is meaningful to me.

What gives you a deep sense of belonging?

S: I don’t have a deep sense of belonging to any particular place, and especially not to Zürich where I currently work and live. It’s a fine but tough city, where the work-life balance suffers a lot. Maybe I can come back in a year, lets see where I go next, and let you know!

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Editorial: Chasing Lizards and Other Memories 2018 © Sherida Kuffour

What’s your favourite song, book or artwork for recalling home?

S: When my youngest sister was born, she was gifted a book from the ‘Miffy’ series by Dick Bruna. I remember seeing the simple line illustrations and solid colours and loving how beautiful it was. I went on to try and replicate these illustrations on Microsoft Paint, and later when I decided to pursue Design in college used Dick Bruna’s work as guidance. Even now, years on from being a 9 year old infatuated with a bunny wearing an orange tunic, I still see how the work of Dick Bruna influences my work and aesthetic.

“LANGUAGE CAN BE ONE OF THE GREATEST AND PUREST WAYS TO EXPERIENCE A COUNTRY’S RICHNESS.”

What advice would you give to someone moving abroad?

S: Language can be one of the greatest and purest ways to experience a country’s richness. You see it in the way that people’s face light up when you utter a phrase, greeting or comment in their respective language. I currently speak four languages fluently, and so far my aim has to always leave a country with a language more that with which I came. It’s a frustrating but satisfying thing when you accomplish it. Lastly I’d say to trust your intuition. Also, if you can cycle everywhere —do!

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