Feminist artist shares cultural heritage

Kendra Muliagatele-Robinson has her work on display in the Women’s Resource Center


MICHAEL LINDER | The Daily Evergreen

Kendra Mugilatele-Robinson, a junior fine arts major, talks about the inspiration for her work.

RACHEL KOCH, Evergreen reporter

Embracing one’s identity and bouncing back from criticism may be a challenge, but it often brings great rewards. Junior Kendra Muliagatele-Robinson uses her art not only to take pride in her heritage, but also to convince others to do the same.

Though she now majors in fine arts, Muliagatele-Robinson, 21, said her passion for drawing and painting was only recently rekindled.

She explained that in the fifth grade, she started drawing and tracing, but stopped because someone told her that her art was ugly. She began to pursue art again last summer, after she posted a painting online and it went semi-viral.

“From there, I continued painting and practicing even more,” she said. “I had stopped painting, I stopped sketching, and then all of the sudden I got all of this appreciation and support from so many people.”

Muliagatele-Robinson said her inspiration is mostly derived from her hobbies and passions.

“I wouldn’t say I have a particular style,” she said, “but a lot of my art reflects me as a person.”

She explained that these interests include anime, hip-hop and her cultural heritage, specifically her identity as a black and Polynesian woman.

“I do art that reflects my Samoan side, as well as black portraits in general,” she said. “There are people who appreciate what I have to put down on a canvas, there are people who look like me and feel the same way as me who could look at it and feel like they can relate to me.”

On March 8, a day known by many as International Women’s Day, Muliagatele-Robinson, revealed three pieces of artwork that now hang on the wall in the WSU Women’s Center. Her works are titled “Nectar,” “Man with the Flower Crown” and “Blk Luv.”

“The purple one, ‘Nectar,’ … took about two to three weeks for me to do,” she said as she pointed to her art on the wall. “It was a challenge for me to figure out what I wanted to paint because it was my very first commission, and the person who commissioned me had a very vague idea of what they wanted.”

Muliagatele-Robinson said the only instructions she received were that the painting had to represent black femininity and that the main color in the image needed to be purple.

She said “Man with the Flower Crown” allowed her to experiment with oil paint for the first time, and that she is very proud of her work on this piece.

“I find that black skin tones can be very challenging at times,” she said, “because there’s so many different undertones and shadings and things like that.”

As for her final piece, “Blk Luv,” Muliagatele-Robinson said painting it was much easier for her because of her fascination with pop art.

“The way that it demonstrates love and all the dramatics of the kiss,” she said, “I was already into it when I first started. When I went into it, it just kind of flowed very easily.”

Muliagatele-Robinson is working on a mural with fellow WSU student artist Alejandrx Martinez. Muliagatele-Robinson said the mural will draw inspiration from female historical leaders of both the Civil Rights and Women’s Suffrage movements, as well as WSU students who support women’s rights. They also plan to include nature in the mural because of the implicit connection between women and nature.

“We wanted to do something that when you come into the Women’s Resource Center or when you come into the room, you feel like there’s this growth,” she said. “The connection between beautiful art in nature, flowers and femininity is what we wanted to display, too.”