Ranya Nirvan, initially known as Randa Abess is a Sierra Leonean glass painting artist born and raised in Kenema, the third-largest city in Sierra Leone, and the largest city in the Eastern Province of Sierra Leone. Ranya Nirvan is currently Sierra Leone’s only glass painting artist in Sierra Leone. Ranya’s beautiful arts have caught the attention of many; the variety, balance, contrast, proportion and pattern of her paintings is aesthetic. As the elements of art include: texture, form, space, shape, colour, value and line — Ranya’s glass paintings is an epitome of the former. This led her to be was nominated Best Artist at the 2021 National Entertainment Awards which she eventually won.
Ranya Nirvan started her primary school education at the Holy Rosary Primary School, Kenema City. After a successful stint in primary school education, Ranya continued her secondary school education at the same school where she did her primary school, Holy Rosary Secondary School. As brilliant as she was, Ranya was always among the top three best students in her school. But her sterling school performances came to an abrupt end when the eleven years civil war emerged in Sierra Leone forcing many school-going pupils and students to drop out of school due to safety reasons; Ranya was no exception. The civil war forced many families to flee for safety — Ranya and her family had to flee Kenema City for safety to the capital Freetown, in 1994. In Freetown, at age 16, Ranya had to let go of her education and started working as a cashier in a Supermarket to support her family. This led Ranya to drop out of school.
I caught up with Ranya Nirvan on Twitter and had an interview with her to tell the world her inspiring story and how she became a glass painting artist making her the only glass painting artist in Sierra Leone.
Q — Tell us about your artwork, glass painting?
Ranya Nirvan: It’s a form of Stained Glass Painting, which you see mainly in Churches and also some houses. Its vibrant colours brighten up anywhere you put them up. The process is not easy but I enjoy doing every bit of it.
Q — Who or what inspired you to do glass painting and how did it come about/where did you learn the art?
Ranya Nirvan: Destiny took me to India when I got married. Having visited several times, I got the chance to stay for a longer duration and hence came across an Arts Institution. I got fascinated by the bright colours of this art and wanted to bring home something unique that’s not common in Sierra Leone so did a course and later self-taught myself to improve my skills to meet up to the satisfaction of my different customers.
Q — Before you started glass painting, what else were you doing?
Ranya Nirvan: As I said earlier, I started working at a very tender age. I was also into trading assorted goods on a small scale, mainly to keep myself busy. But other than monetary benefits my soul satisfaction was not found.
Q — As a Sierra Leonean artist and being the only glass painting artist in Sierra Leone, what are the challenges you face with your doing your work and how do you manage to overcome some of them?
Ranya Nirvan: Art in general in Sierra Leone is challenging; from getting the materials to installation to getting a decent living out of Art only. The market is very small. However, it has been revived a bit in the past few years, with regular exhibitions. It’s so challenging to the level that we don’t have any Art gallery in the country, which is a criterion to participate in some International Art Exhibitions overseas.
Q — Are Sierra Leoneans buy your paintings or do they appreciate and acknowledge the wonderful work you are doing?
Ranya Nirvan: Oh Yes!!! They are my number 1 patrons, motivators, admirers, and have been an integral part of my journey, some from the very start. I wouldn’t have reached where I am today. I Thank God for them and pray to God to guide and protect them and their families.
Q — What message do your paintings portray?
Ranya Nirvan: All my paintings portray different messages. Others portray HOPE, while others portray SELF WORTH, SOLITUDE, FOCUS and so on and so forth. Some portray social pressures and insecurities. Insecurities and fear keep our mouths & eyes shut as injustices occur. We are scared of the consequences of speaking out, what people will think etc, & let’s be honest, it’s easier to sit back and let things slide.
Q — How valuable is your skill in this part of the world?
Ranya Nirvan: Its uniqueness makes it valuable. It is rare and unique just like diamonds in Sierra Leone. So it won’t be wrong to term it as Diamond of Sierra Leone’s Art World. With all due respect to my colleague Artists, Sierra Leone has a good pool of talent. All we need is support and a platform to display our talents on National and International platforms.
Q — Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Ranya Nirvan: God has been very kind. The past few years (when the world was fighting the pandemic), have been very productive. Due to my participation in Art Exhibitions at the US Embassy Trade Fair, WAMA conference at Bintumani, and some Award functions like The Barray, Reunion Sierra Leone, etc. I have garnered much appreciation and patrons who always patronize me for the work I do. With my social media presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, I am able to have a decent fan following which is steadily increasing. I always keep in touch with my well-wishers, who always help me to get in touch with new admirers. Representing Sierra Leone at the International level is what I am looking forward to. I am working towards that and Insha’Allah, I will reach there as well as my fellow artists who are equally talented in their fields.
Q — What is your advice to young Sierra Leonean artists out there?
Ranya Nirvan: Never lose your passion. Never stop believing in yourself. If you have a natural talent, instilled by GOD in you, you must never abandon it. It is GOD’s gift to you, and you should always try to keep it with you no matter how hard times are or how busy you are, never abandon it. The mental satisfaction one gets from doing something which they are passionate about what you do is immense. Don’t allow any critic to pull you down, stay focused and you’ll definitely succeed. My advice to every Sierra Leonean is to take pride in whatever you do. Do it to perfection no matter your job profile, once you provide satisfaction to your employer or customers, you never be out of work.
Do you like Ranya’s glass painting art? You can purchase them through WhatsApp +23276561222 or send her a message via her Twitter handle Ranya Nirvan