Los Angeles, USA
The beguiling presence of the artist Cassi A. Namoda is far from skin deep. Despite being a recognisable fixture amongst the fashion set, Cassi’s magnetic, earthy energy captivates even the most skeptical cynics. A figurative painter with a deep-rooted knack for natural health and beauty remedies, Cassi has defined a way of living that pushes back on conventional norms.
Based in Los Angeles, but quite literally a resident of the world – she was in Portugal, Miami, New York, Italy and Paris alone in just the past few months, Cassi was born to an American father and Mozambican mother in Maputo, Mozambique before her studies took her to Benin, Uganda and eventually the United States.
‘[Travelling] feels very natural to me because I moved a lot growing up and had this peripatetic life, but I have a good handle on travelling so I can remain balanced and not feel ungrounded,’ she explains of her nomadic way of life. ‘Sometimes I think that people who travel quite often can feel really floaty. But that’s how I’ve been working; I travel to places and I might make a body of work.’
The confluence of global influences that has inadvertently defined Cassi is palpable at different levels, be it her gestural artwork or the international lilt that she speaks in. Her raw, yet romantic paintings, which often portray imperfect figures in a variety of domestic or tropical settings, teeter between the mundane and the folkloric, offering glimpses of a familiar yet other life that simultaneously deal with themes like pain, beauty, oppression, colonialism and neocolonialism.
Although Cassi’s work is most striking for its highly personal narrative quality, this approach wasn’t instantly defined. She recalls, ‘When I first moved to LA, I was freelancing and realized I didn’t want to live that life where I was constantly going around and not having enough energy to work on things that were personal.’
Her creative pursuits began with making mixed media work and undertaking various curatorial projects, but Cassi soon honed in on painting, with watercolours to start. ‘I began painting different memories; it was almost like a form of journaling and a very intimate thing. I wasn’t as concerned with how painterly each piece was, I was more concerned about whether it feels honest to me and does the story transcend beyond,’ she says.
That honesty continues today in her reluctance to stay too long in any one place. Despite being a working artist with some recognition to her name, Cassi has remained steadfast in her resistance to establishing a studio and subscribing to a routine way of working, despite the professional pressures to do so.
‘The energy of my always moving around inspires me and my work. The different vibrations of people and language and ambiance very much feed into the place and time when I make a body of work,’ she affirms. ‘At some point, maybe it would be nice to be in LA and fit into a four-walled space, but I feel like I’m a little bit old school and I just want to check out. In Portugal [over the summer], I closed myself off because I felt that I needed some alone time and not have the daily disruptions of life. I feel like solitude is healthy.’
1. ‘Works of Love’
2. ‘Woman Bather by Red Peonies’
3. ‘2am and the Absence of Pain’
4. 'A beautiful woman and her cats somewhere in Ladera Heights one hazy afternoon'5. 'Lady Cas drinks Alize in South Beach'
Cassi’s self-assuredness reflects a long-standing sense of being and wellness. ‘I’ve always been a sensitive soul and very body and self-aware. I’ve always known that there’s a way to treat things holistically. I became vegan very young, maybe around the age of 12 or 13, and I’ve always had these conscious ideas about where I’m spending my money and what I’m putting in my body.’
Similarly, Cassi sought out healers and holistic practitioners during her younger years in South Africa on instinct, ultimately tapping into this unique community. ‘The work to take care of myself came very naturally to me from a young age. I was always curious about how to do things from a holistic standpoint and living in Africa where markets and natural herbs are so accessible, it was very easy for me to make teas or natural facemasks. South Africa also really inspired me because they have such a lovely holistic community.’
Having tried everything from a Himalayan cleanse that involved 7-day fast with apples to having an IV drip infused with ozone and making her own turmeric and moringa pastes from market produce, Cassi sums up her approach to health and beauty as a drive to live her best life and not give into sickness. ‘I’m very conscious of what this world deals with, where people have all these diseases and sicknesses that they don’t need to have. At the same time, I’ve also learned about balance. It’s all about doing the research and finding something that works for you.’
What does wellness mean to you?I’d like to think of wellness as something that makes us feel closer to ourselves, and ultimately earth. That’s why I think the term ‘feeling grounded’ is such an important one. It’s like doing the things that are adherent to flow of life- eating, sleeping, moving. What are some of your cherished daily/weekly/monthly rituals?Monthly: acupuncture, weekly: yoga, daily: a bath.
Walk us through your morning ritual and how that sets you up for the day.Honestly I have been on the road since the beginning of this year so the way I approach my morning is a bit different - but always a hot water in the morning to drink - usually with lemon. While I was in Portugal over the summer, I went on morning hike , which were really good for me. It clears my head before I start the day.
When I’m in LA I might approach the morning more ritualistically with incense and open windows, watering plants. I move a lot in the morning to loosen up my body. I might think about my dreams for awhile too.
How does this compare with how you end each day?At the end of day, I usually will end it in a bath after I completed by time in the studio. I think about the paintings, how my body feels, where my mental is. I’m sort of processing in the bath. That way when I get to bed my mind is quiet so I can focus on reading or just departing to sleep.What is your preferred mode of exercise and why? Yoga and swimming . Yoga is a beautiful meeting of mind and body and it’s really about self-practice. I feel the same is approached with swimming.Do you believe in supplements? if so, which ones and why?I think each person is different- but personally I feel like I hardly ever get sick or deal with much illness because I’m very well versed with supplements - I’m kind of my own doctor. I know when my pancreas isn’t well so I might take bittermelon or if I’m too nervous because work or stress I take GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), I also love shatavari for hormones.If you're feeling down or stressed, what's your surefire pick-me-up? Tending to something else- like taking care of my plants or garden, or walking through a museum, swimming in the ocean, receiving love and praise from those close to me.What one thing can't you live without?Water... literally. How do you regulate your digital consumption?Not on phone while I’m actually painting - and airplane mode while I’m sleeping.What are some of the biggest issues on your mind today?Individuality is few and far between.What aspect/area of wellness do you think people should talk more about?Probably mental health - you can do all the things but if you are struggling with life, we need to address that.
Photography by: Adrien Cothier