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Meet Sade Ndya of The Red Futon

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sade Ndya.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I’ve been taking photos since I was in the third grade. Coming from a family of multiple ethnicities, I had the lovely pleasure of seeing the world at a young age. Going from South Africa, Belize, Mexico, to all around the US, I was never really grounded in one place. I would capture all of my different journeys, the good and the bad, through my lens. Being introduced to so many different aspects of life inspired me in itself. We exist in a reality that is plagued by all sorts of bad; racism, homophobia, classism, etc. Once you come to this realization as a kid, your whole world shatters. I used my camera as a vehicle to build my world back up.

There’s this really corny quote that I made up in middle school that says “Portray the beauty of this unbecoming world”. Now, I listened to way too much indie music as a kid and thought I was deep as hell, but this is a collection of words that I still greatly abide by. As a Black, Indian, and Jewish-raised woman growing up in white suburbia, I’ve always been seen as a “target” and a “burden” to society. What I find so beautiful about photography and filmmaking, is that it can be a stimulating vessel for new information and new ideas. I’ve used my work as a supplement to bring positive and new hindsights to society about my different identities and realities. My main focus is altering the perceptions of black souls in the media by photos/films that exhibit vibrant colors and vivid worlds.

Upon moving to Pasadena, I moved into my first real apartment and decided to turn my living room into a studio space, called The Red Futon. I’m currently enrolled in film school and needed a space to create art for myself, outside of the institution. I’ve gone through being raised in a non-creative environment my whole life, surrounded by emerging doctors and aspiring politicians. Never being worth it enough because all I really did was “press a button” on a camera. Then I came to film school, thinking I was finally going to be with the people that truly understood me, only to still feel the same. Feeling like my peers didn’t care about the stories/content I wanted to create or take me seriously in the work environment. I’ve wanted to give up at times, but I can’t. This art form is all I’ve ever known and all I’ll ever know. So instead of breaking down and giving up, I initiated a counter. I created my own space to create. To be in control of the content that I make and surround myself with creatives that are on the same page as me. The Red Futon was created one night at 3 am, upon talking about these same stresses with one of my closest friends on, of course, my red futon. At that moment, I felt so safe and respected, which is something I wanted to imitate with this studio space. For creatives, regardless of gender, shape, color and/or size to be able to indulge in their passion. Free from judgment or mistreatment. I was so committed to making this happen that I impulsively spent money on getting my own equipment and planned my first shoot in the space. So I put together a team of some of my friends, new and old, to create a photo campaign for a local vintage clothing line, called Valentine Vintage. The team was a mixture of all passionate creatives of color, helping out left and right. I’ve never been on such a wholesome set. Making jokes, dropping verses, world building, helping out without being asked, etc. It was such a humbling experience.

After that, we just kept on going. I published the photos online, and they were a hit. Since then, The Red Futon team has constantly been growing and taking freelance photos/videos for local brands, musicians, and artists. All in my living room.

Please tell us about your art.
I’m a fine art photographer and cinematographer — I dual between making art for myself and bringing the worlds of others to life.

Through my personal work, I enjoy telling narratives through dreamlike and highly saturated imagery. My work stems from my strong advocacy for social justice and revamping notions of black identity through surreal-like worlds and characters that are reflective of my own personal experiences.

Through The Red Futon, I capture the essence of people. The opportunity to enter other realities and share them with the rest of the world through visual imagery is something that I’m highly passionate about. Whether it may be album cover art, artist portraiture, music video work, etc.; it has been an honor to be trusted with reflecting the identity of other individuals. I hope to expand The Red Futon one day to provide more widespread of a safe space for young artists of color in Pasadena to create, connect and collaborate.

What do you think about the conditions for artists today? Has life become easier or harder for artists in recent years? What can cities like ours do to encourage and help art and artists thrive?
My goodness, I’ve learned so many hard lessons about being a freelancer just in this past year. LA can either be the best or worst place to be an artist, it’s all about how you decide to manage your time, passion, and relationships.

My biggest advice for other young artists like me would probably be:

1) Don’t work with anyone who isn’t an immediate fan of your work. This is the first warning sign of a project potentially going wrong. Anyone willing to hire you should at least take the time to get an idea of what your work and process is like so that you’re not stuck taking up a project that feels like you’re compromising your core values as an artist.

2) Don’t be afraid to say no to projects if it’s against who you are or what you’re worth. More opportunities will come.

3) Surround yourself with collaborators that genuinely want to see you win. A bad crew can greatly affect the final project.

4) There’s no rush to do anything. No one is timing you. I understand that competitiveness in the visual art community can be so stressful, but people will appreciate it more if you’re open yourself and have something to say as an artist at the end of the day. Work on yourself and establishing your artistic identity first. All of the other technical things and expensive equipment will come later.

5) At the end of the day, you should always be having fun. Choosing to make your passion a career is a ballsy life decision in itself. If the passion and joyfulness towards your craft is gone, you might as well be working a 9-5 office job.

Community is also the best way to share your work and learn from others. There are a lot of great local organizations hosting safe spaces for young artists of color to pursue their passions.

Here are some of my favorites (via instagram handles):

  • @madeinherimageofficial is a charity organization dedicated to empowering the next generation of young women and girls of color in film and media.

  • @antiracistclassroom is a student-led organization dedicated to counteracting racism and white supremacy in design and education practice. This is a group that I have the pleasure of being apart of. We’re throwing a short-film festival this summer dedicated to highlighting the works of young filmmakers of color, which we believe, are the future of film. Follow them for more details!

  • @noustousla is a gallery and community space located in Chinatown, that has artist community gatherings every Wednesday.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
My personal Instagram is @sadendya, for my more personal life/work.

The Red Futon’s Instagram is @theredfuton to keep up with all of our recent projects and how you can potentially get involved! We’re always looking for new creatives to join our team.

All of my work can also be found on my website at www.theredfuton.com.

The Red Futon will be doing a pop-up studio at the next Bloody Gums Photography show on June 1st! We’ll be building one of our detailed set designs and taking photos of guests at the event. More details to come soon.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
BTS/Cover Photo by
Michelle Corvino
Adrian Lorenzana
Christina Xing
Photo by Glenn Espinosa

The rest are by Sade Ndya @ The Red Futon

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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