With the pandemic dragging on, students continue to find innovative ways to create in their spare time. For Kefa Memeh ’22, artistic expression in the midst of COVID-19 has taken on its own distinctive form. Memeh, a studio art major with a passion for patterns and prints, has received attention on social media in recent months for her unconventionally colorful and meticulously detailed makeup.
Beginning as a concept for a digital photography class project in 2019, Memeh’s creative undertaking gained traction during the months of 2020 she spent in lockdown. Her inspiration was rooted in a deep love for the diversity of different fabrics and motivated by the lack of artistic materials immediately accessible to her during the pandemic. Memeh’s project capitalizes on the idea that, as she told the Collegian, “your face is your canvas right now.”
As a native of Nigeria, Memeh says she draws inspiration for her brightly colored and patterned makeup designs from African textiles and prints. As her obsession with fabrics grew, so did her collection. “Now I have Mexican prints that I draw inspiration from, Asian prints … My friends travel to different countries and [fabrics] are what they bring me.”
Memeh’s looks cover a variety of aesthetics, from avant-garde color gradients to minimalist designs to simple print recreations to a striking adaptation of Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night. She devotes hours to painting and curating these masterpieces onto her skin, sharing photos of the final products on her Instagram page.
At the heart of Memeh’s venture lies her passion for expanding artistic boundaries. As for what attracted her most to the concept of abstract makeup modeling, she shared, “It’s kind of that thin line between art and makeup … turning my body into my canvas is something I found so beautiful and so inspirational. It’s something I never thought I’d be able to do — breaking conventions and extending the idea of what makeup is, as well as extending the idea of what conventional art is.”
Memeh has an encouraging message for other aspiring artists and innovators: “It took me a while to start taking my art more seriously. I thought, ‘Oh, I can’t make a living out of this.’ Or ‘it’s just not enough,’” she said. “The message I’d like to pass across is that everyone’s dreams and hobbies are valid. You just have to start [creating], based off of what you think and what you love — put aside everybody else and bring yourself to the forefront.”
Driving Memeh’s creative endeavors are her dedication to her artwork and consistent support from peers, friends and fans on social media. When asked if she will continue to post inventive looks, she replied, “1000 percent, yes.”
Memeh’s makeup and design work can be found on her Instagram accounts @its_kefa and @kefaxart, and more of her clothing- and style-based work can be found @shopkefa.