Linda Kemoli – MA Illustration

Linda’s story

One of my earliest memories is sitting at home in front of a blank page, dreaming up new ideas to draw. I was about three years old and while it probably wasn’t my best work, it’s where my art began.

Soon after, my family moved from Nairobi to the Netherlands. Starting school in a new country was tough and I found it hard to acclimatise, until it came time for art class. I was able to connect with other pupils through art and thankfully my teachers and parents encouraged it.

At the age of eight, my family moved back to Nairobi and I was fortunate to attend a school with an art department, which later allowed me to attend a public university to study for a BA in design. The facilities weren’t perfect, and students had to use their initiative if they wanted to create, but still, it was a degree in a field I loved.

Around the same time, I started volunteering for an NGO that’s focused on road safety, which is a real issue not just in Kenya but worldwide; around 1.25 million people die and a further 20-50 million people a year are injured on the road. I’ve lost friends and family members to accidents and in 2016, was even in one myself. While I was fortunate to walk away unharmed, all these experiences were beginning to inform my art.

After graduating, I knew I needed a change of scenery if I was to progress in my career. But where? Fortunately, I met a University of Portsmouth representative at a careers fair, who told me about the University’s Masters courses and the different scholarships that are available. I applied for a scholarship and while I wasn’t successful, I didn’t give up. I kept working and later that year, after my family had met the university representative and saw how much it meant to me, they agreed to help me out.

I’m so happy they did – my time here has been even better than I could have imagined. For one, the facilities here at the University are something else. There’s everything I could ever need to create my work and the students all support one another too. It’s a wonderful atmosphere.

What’s more, the Masters is centred around creating a final major project, which has allowed me to bring my two passions together by creating a board game about road safety that I’m hoping will educate people in Nairobi and spark a conversation.

Because it’s a one year MA, I’m only going to be here for a short time, but that hasn’t stopped the University backing my goals. This year I successfully pitched, at a University of Portsmouth social enterprise event, to receive funding for my own project that will utilise illustration and design to communicate with communities about road safety issues. It’s an exciting time!

Find out more about postgraduate study at the University of Portsmouth here