Meet the Makers (& educators) behind Project Make: Anjuli Selvadurai

6 months ago by

Project Make champions the role of design and design education in New Zealand and encourages folk to make things together.

We spoke with the educators about their individual journeys, collective approach to design education, what sparked the initiative and the positive impacts their teaching is having.

Today we hear from Anjuli Selvadurai:

Anjuli Selvadurai is a visual artist/photographer/designer based in Auckland. She has recently completed a Bachelors of Design, majoring in Photography with Honours at Massey University, Wellington. Anjuli’s practice is driven by her experiences growing up as a mixed race, first generation New Zealander. 

Her most recent exhibiting work ‘Gita’ interrogates aspects of her cultural identity in a series of embellished photographic textiles. Whilst engaging with notions of contested belonging and reflections of personal identity, her dual cultural background situates her work within the realm of identity politics spanning multiple cultures and worlds. With a keen interest in materiality, Anjuli employs silk, a traditional medium for saris. This series of photographic works, confront the often exoticised perceptions of South Asian culture. In utilising decorative cultural artefacts associated with traditional, cultural and contemporary female experiences, the work addresses the concept of girlhood within a dual cultural experience.

Can you tell us a little about your background as an Art and Technology Teacher/student? 

I started taking art and design seriously around year 12 of high school, once I was able to choose my classes and ditch maths and science I began to throw myself into art history, communication design, photography, art and fashion textiles. Due to a timetable scheduling issue I was put into a leftovers class of three for year 13 design. While Demelza taught a rowdy year 12 class, I sat in the corner (as most of the time I was the only one of three that turned up) and worked away quietly. This turned out to be the best part of my final year at school. Demelza taught me a hell of a lot about design and was always exposing me to ‘cool design-y stuff’. The best thing she taught me was the value of my work and point of view, something that I still remind myself of five years on.

I went on to Massey University, Wellington and gained a Bachelor of Design, Majoring in Photography. This was a time where I found my ‘voice’ as an artist/maker, my current photo based practice is driven by my experiences growing up as a mixed race, first generation New Zealand woman.

Apple’s Jony Ive said “What we make completely testifies to who we are” what do you make and what does it say about who you are?

Historically, this statement rings true for me. Throughout my recent art and design education I was making a lot of photographic work which reflected and explored my cultural identity. This definitely spoke of a time where I needed to self reflect and confront a few things which I hadn’t known how to deal with before. I worked through a lot by visualising myself into my work.

Now that I am out of that highly critical tertiary setting and in this weird ‘in between’ stage, I feel I’m able to make a very different type of work. I have started to make more multimedia works, simply to enjoy the process of making and honing in on skills I haven’t utilised in a while.

What was the catalyst for Project Make?

In terms of joining Project Make, Demelza and I had chatted about how some education systems and schooling often lack knowledge, resources and empathy in how to understand their minority students. As a result a lot of these students, at times, feel discouraged by these spaces and systems. I think through Demelza’s experiences as a teacher and my experience as one of those students we had a similar goal in wanting to shift this. Through Project Make, my passion lies in creating spaces where minority groups and people of colour can exist and engage with well thought out, accessible and inclusive resources that allow them to feel proud of their efforts.

Your project library is under development but you have 4 free courses currently on offer (including isolation art) – How can students get involved, and what should they expect from the project?

We have tried to cater to lots of different types of makers with varying experience levels and equipment. The self portrait project which I wrote engages with ideas surrounding identity and urges the maker to think critically and visualise their experiences. I wanted to write this project to help makers/ students who have struggled to articulate their feelings/ tensions/ perceptions of their own identities.

And for teachers who may want to collaborate on the development or delivery of a project how can they participate?

Email – let’s cook up something cool!

Can you share an example of design/making having a profoundly positive impact on a student/ you as a student?

Without sounding like the teachers pet – it was one concept I learnt from Demelza which was idea generation and regeneration. Taking one thing and painting it, then photographing it, then projecting it, then photographing it again, then putting through a shredder, then piecing it back together. As a fairly A to B type person, this kind of thinking helped me think less linear and relish in all the scribbly mistakes.

What do you see as the benefit of incorporating tactile or analogue practices into digital learning opportunities?

If anything, I think at this time when we are all locked down at home due to COVID-19, digital learning is super relevant. By incorporating tactility to these digital experiences we can see past the excessive screen time and think of it as an absolutely necessary tool to ground us and help us cope.

Which factors do you think will be most significant in shaping Design education in Aotearoa in the next 5 years?

  1. Inclusivity – Working on including students, makers and groups that often get overlooked in education systems.
  2. Excitement – Getting students excited about design and helping them understand the importance of good design.

What are your hopes for the future of Project Make?

I hope that Project Make brings together more like minded people to collaborate and we can continue learning from each other and making cool stuff.



This is the second instalment in this series (read our previous Project Make feature with Demelza Round)


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