Born in a small village north of the Netherlands called Steggerda, Carla Kranendonk was always drawn to the world of art often finding herself painting, drawing, experimenting with clay and paper; simply creating. “My parents have always supported me to draw and paint,” says Kranendonk. Her father was a bank director and her mother a seamstress.
“My mother was always making dresses so I grew up with lots of fabrics around the house,” she shares. “I didn’t like school too much. I was always looking outside the window and not listening to the teachers.” The exception was art lessons, which she always enjoyed and never missed.
Following her high school years, Kranendonk attended two different art schools including Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam from 1984 until 1987. She describes these years as some of the best in her entire life. In 1991 Kranendonk visited Senegal, a trip which would later change her life. “I remember stepping out of the plane and feeling the warm weather on my skin,” she recalls. “I also remember a strange smell, the atmosphere in the airport, the fascinating beautiful black custom officers, soldiers and policemen.”
It was her first time in West Africa and she immediately fell in love with the country: the colours, the light, the people. “The light in Senegal is the most beautiful light in the world,” she expresses. “The beautiful ladies took my attention, the way they dress, act, walk and look. I also fell in love with their way of living, the houses and the colours in the interiors, the food – all of it was fascinating for me and still is.”
Kranendonk’s travels to Senegal are a strong inspiration for the colours and patterns seen in her large-scale collages and particularly, her works highlight the strength and resilience of the women of Senegal. “Senegalese women inspire me because so many of the ones I have met are strong, confident and beautiful women,” she explains.
“They know how to dress and impress. They are working together and helping each other out, they are helping their large families. They are strong women. During difficult periods of my life, they inspired me to think positively and work hard, to keep strong and to believe in myself.”