Black Womanhood

Marlou Fernanda: Foregrounding the Inner Self through Art

An essay written from a conversation with the artist about her journey in self-discovery as a Black woman and the role of self-development in her work. Here, we dig deeper into what makes Marlou Fernanda visualize her inner dialogues with a creative force that is challenging the white-cis male-dominated Dutch art world.

(right) Marlou Fernanda, “Like Me Know, Ego, Death”. (2022). Courtesy of the artist. (left) Marlou Fernanda, “Old Answers New Questions”. (2022). Courtesy of the artist.

(right) Marlou Fernanda, “Like Me Know, Ego, Death”. (2022). Courtesy of the artist. (left) Marlou Fernanda, “Old Answers New Questions”. (2022). Courtesy of the artist.

By Lis Camelia

As a child, Marlou lived in Curaçao with her Brazilian father and a mother from Curaçao, until she moved to the Netherlands with her family when she was four years old. Coming from an artistic family, her artistic interest grew fully into motion once she attended Grafisch Lyceum in Rotterdam, and from there she has been creating visual arts in many forms. This includes paintings, photography and set design. Nevertheless, Marlou Fernanda uses her creativity as a vehicle to cope, express and connect to what she sees as her guideline, her authentic self.

In her work as an artist, Marlou Fernanda continuously questions the realities that she faces, which reflect the questions that are often inherent to growth and self-development. Questions like the meaning of happiness, or what it means to love somebody. Her focus on self, creates an interesting framework through which her work can be seen. Marlou’s work allows for an in-depth visualization on what it looks like for a Black woman to put herself first. Marlou defies the idea that Black womanhood is inherently an identity of self-sacrifice. Her work dismantles dominant ideas of identity and representation and navigates the difficult task of self-discovery. In her visual performance The World Can Wait (released in 2020) she engages with the topic of God, unwavering faith and family. This performance is an intimate view into her faith and the role it plays in her life. In Generational Anger (2022) she visualizes her views on racism, police brutality and inequalities and her role in creating change. In these performances, it is clear that Marlou Fernanda puts her inner voice at the center of her art.

Marlou Fernanda, “bad dream”. (2022). Courtesy of the artist.

This artistic performance of self-discovery is prominent in her work The Nu-Nu show (2018). Nu-Nu, a character in Marlou Fernanda’s work that she sees as her alter ego, reflects a different side of Marlou Fernanda. This character is represented with a face, visually very similar to Marlou Fernanda herself, in her paintings and performances. Nu-Nu is portrayed as extravagant, bold, colorful, rebellious. Despite the filled and colorful canvasses on which Nu-Nu is visualized, there is no doubt that she is the main point of focus. Her presence on the canvas captures your attention and dares you to look away. Nu-Nu embodies the courageous, work driven side of Marlou Fernanda, that is in duality with herself, who she describes as a young girl that just wants to live a normal life. Nu-Nu recreates the idea of freedom, an existence without boundaries and doubt. This performance visualizes an imagining where Marlou Fernanda can express her existence in an authentic manner. It is a visual representation that displays the inner process of growth and the process of struggling with the internal conversation of finding the right path. Through Nu-Nu, Marlou Fernanda is able to capture a dialogue on the complex and contradictory realities of self-identity.

As a Black woman, growing up in The Netherlands, Marlou Fernanda’s determinant expression of self is a radical artistic narrative in a space where the voices of Black women are almost completely absent. Her world disrupts the status quo that Dutch art spaces are inherently white spaces. Despite facing feelings of imposter syndrome, or sometimes feeling that her perspective is considered disposable in the artistic world, Marlou Fernanda still recognizes that her voice challenges the normalized structure in the Dutch art scene. Therefore, despite her growing demand in various artistic scenes and her growth as an artist, she maintains a reverence for the requirement of silence. She understands that moments alone are essential in order to be able to listen to her inner voice. She believes in the need to sometimes tune out from the voices from outside, in order to rediscover herself and her journey.

Marlou Fernanda, “Marlou Fernanda Reading”. Courtesy of the artist.

The representation of self is a narrative that continues to be interesting for Marlou Fernanda and her work. In her debut solo exhibition, Old Answers New Questions (2022) at Hama Gallery in Amsterdam, Marlou Fernanda aims to cover the topic of transformation and the process of finding her own way in life. In this exhibition, she showcases her paintings both on large canvasses and on a small scale using acrylic, collage, oil paint and mixed media. Her paintings are often filled with color and abstract elements. Here, Marlou Fernanda often uses the literal portrayal of a face, an essential element that relays familiarity in humans, in combination with unfamiliar and deformed shapes and figurines. These paintings reflect a chaotic, yet familiar image by showcasing objects and emotions in a deconstructed reality, as traditional shapes and body parts are drawn in a matter that seems to challenge the assumptions of what is natural and inherent. This exhibition provides a challenge to the idea of reality being indefinite and therefore allows for new answers to old questions.

Marlou Fernanda continues to use her inner-development as the motor behind her work. Through the Nu-Nu series, she also portrays the idea of self-discovery without the boundaries of shame, trauma or pride, representing the complexity of authentic self-discovery. Through her work, she is able to visualize her engagement with important questions that she sometimes does not have the answer to, yet dares to represent in her work for us to question ourselves.



Marlou Fernanda is a visual artist based in Rotterdam that creates visual work guided by her imaginary using paintings, films, performances and set design. Marlou Fernanda aims to find herself in live whilst expressing an authentic and transparent visualization of her process. She continuously uses her work to engage with life questions and transform her audience by giving them access into her imaginative universe.

Lis Camelia was born in Curaçao, and is currently living in Rotterdam. As a cultural producer, she aims to use all forms of media that help tell stories that connect us to culture and knowledge. She hopes to contribute to the showcasing of ideas that can build stronger communities within the African Diaspora.



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