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artist Cera-Tan

Delving into her true creative power - A conversation with artist Cera-Tan

I was privileged to have the opportunity to collaborate with Cayman-based South African Artist Cera-Tan on an artwork that, happily, was selected to be exhibited at the 3rd Cayman Islands Biennial. The piece was titled “Rooted in Diversity” and was based on themes that are very close to both our hearts.

In exploring the notion of ancestry and cultural roots in modern Caymanian culture, Cera-Tan created a portrait of myself set against the backdrop of the Isy B. textile print titled "Adara and the Cheetah" which is based on my original folktale and narration.

Isy B. Cayman Islands and Cera-Tan Art

The collaborative work is an expression of a conversation between us about identity, ancestry, and the idea of finding one's home. We spent many hours together talking about our lives and our work as we worked on the piece and I was fascinated to dive into how Cera-Tan discovered and continues to nurture her passion for her amazing work.


art by cera-tan


Isy: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your work.

Cera-Tan: I am a self-taught artist born and raised in South Africa, with family and ancestry branching out from Zimbabwe to India and across Europe. I was creatively influenced by my incredibly talented mother, it's definitely in the genes. I excelled in art classes throughout my school years. I love people and understanding their stories and where they come from. I love countries rich in culture and beautiful vibrant colours, Africa and our bright prints, India and its array of colours in everything they do, and Mexico, all loud and proud cultures. What I do was gifted to me by the Lord and I couldn't be more grateful for this blessing, to be able to speak to people through art.


Isy: Would you say that your work is your passion? Please explain why.

Cera-Tan: Yes absolutely! Being creative is like therapy, all your problems and issues melt away. I’m passionate about people and understanding who they are, and I feel as though I can share that story through my work.

Isy:  How did you discover this was an area you feel passionately about?

Cera-Tan: I have always known I was creatively inclined but struggled to accept who I was and decide which direction I wanted to go. There were just too many options. 

Isy:  You didn’t start off working as an artist? What was your initial career?

Cera-Tan: I was a hairstylist and makeup artist for 12 years before I changed careers. I worked on photoshoots, fashion shows at Cape Town Fashion Week, Magazines like Italian Vogue, South African Cosmopolitan, and many more. I traveled around South Africa and worked on a Superyacht Styling hair in the Mediterranean and Caribbean, these were some of the best years of my life. I was constantly surrounded by incredibly talented people in various different fields.

Isy:  When did you make the change? 

Cera-Tan: I arrived in Cayman in 2017 to work as a hairstylist, I got an invite on Instagram to enter a local art competition. I have always enjoyed art, so I thought why not? Not too long after that, I ruptured/slipped a disc in my neck, and the doctor ordered me to go on bed rest and I was pumped with serious pain meds for seven long weeks. It was definitely one of the most frustrating times of my life as I couldn’t work and I had to let go of my job because I didn’t know how long it would take for me to recover. To my huge surprise, I was announced as the winner of the competition! After revealing the winners, the owner came right up to me and asked whether I would consider teaching art? I couldn't believe how the Lord works, and that's how it all began here on the island. I have since participated in a number of prestigious local exhibitions as well as now at the National Gallery for the 3rd Cayman Islands Biennial.

Isy: How did you start doing the work you do now? How did you develop this style?

Cera-Tan: I started by creating tiny portraits on 1x2 inch cuts of newspaper during my downtime at work. At the time I lived in a commune in Cape Town, South Africa, and was going through a tough time. Being creative is my therapy. I draw, make jewelry, face paint, paint murals and anything I can get my hands on. I didn't have any of my art supplies with me (as I left them all in the city I lived in before) so a friend of mine gave me a small paintbrush and some white wall paint he had, I grabbed some newspaper and a BIC pen and got started drawing and that's truly where I found my love for the style I currently have, that was back in 2009.


art by cera-tan


Isy:  What training did you have or are you largely self-taught?

Cera-Tan: Other than doing Art and Design in high school, I am pretty much self-taught. I am always learning from others and I don’t think I will ever stop learning. I guess with that I will be making a lot of mistakes along the way too… Happy mistakes!

Isy: You’re a busy mum with two kids; what are some of the best ways you’ve found to incorporate your passion into your daily life and so keep that light burning within you.

Cera-Tan: This is a tough one, while I was homeschooling both boys I struggled to find the time to keep my creative light burning, my husband is my biggest fan, so he is always pushing me to be creative and find new things to do, which usually can only get done at night when I am not exhausted… haha! which is hardly ever! Now that my eldest is in school, I get to take creative breaks when my little one is sleeping. Otherwise, my brain is always thinking of new ideas, and being inspired by other artists. If others can do it, I remind myself I can do it too.

Isy: What benefits would you say that doing this work brings to you as a person?

Cera-Tan: Oh wow! Drawing and creating for me is like going to the gym or boxing for others, it's a huge release for me. During my creative time, my brain and body let go of a lot! I want to show my kids that you can do something you love and make a success out of it. When I create I am not just finding a face to draw, I am diving into a person’s culture. The more I learn about the culture, the more I learn about myself. 

Isy: What have been some of the most challenging aspects of pursuing something you love?

Cera-Tan: Having kids...haha! No, honestly my own fear. I'm still figuring out if it’s been the fear of failing or the fear of succeeding. Another major thing is my perfectionism, it is a good thing but has definitely been a challenge. I haven't done things because I haven't been able to get it perfect the first time, that has been a major setback, but I'm getting better with that now. I am also working on being in the present and doing my best I can for now, and not worrying about what if or I should have or could have...just get on with it and it’ll be fine. I homeschooled my boys for 3 years (I truly take my hat off to those who manage to balance homeschooling, work, home, being a wife, and an individual it truly is a balancing act), so the things I love were put on hold for a while, while I was focusing on being the mom my boys needed. My mom always told me, every cloud has a silver lining, or you have to look for the light at the end of the tunnel - it is there! The more you focus on it the brighter it becomes. I truly believe the challenges we go through are preparing us for what’s to come, they are also there for us to truly soak up and appreciate the beauty when it finally comes.

Isy: What advice would you give to women who are looking to find what lights them up, and maybe incorporate this into their lives?

Cera-Tan: I would say, never stop playing, never stop praying and have faith, the right thing will come to you. Keep trying new things. Always say yes to new opportunities. Even if you think you can’t do it, fake it. If you don't try you won't know. Keep going until you can. It helps to find a cheerleader, someone who will cheer you on and keep you excited about what you are doing. Also finding some creative friends can light a fire up inside of you - it’s always inspiring watching others do what they love and succeed doing it. Everyone has something that lights them up - you just need to work that muscle.


art by cera-tan

Don't miss the opportunity to delve deeper into the artistic world of Cera-Tan! Follow her on Instagram and Facebook to stay updated on her latest creations and upcoming projects. And if you haven't had a chance yet, make sure to visit the 3rd Cayman Islands Biennial exhibition at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands to witness the collaboration we embarked on. The exhibition with a title “Conversations with the Past - in the Present Tense” will be open until September 29th, so there's still time to immerse yourself in the beauty of the Cayman art.

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BONUS: Get a free Isy B. Beach Vacation Style Guide & printable packing checklist to look fabulous on the beach.