Your Life: Nisha Merit

Nisha Merit is an independent curator and writer who works cross-disciplinary with creatives and institutions locally and abroad. She is also a self-confessed workaholic and a great cook who loves music and her garden.

By Leigh Herringer
Independeant curator, writer and interlocutor for the arts

To me, luxury is time. It really is the fibre and essence of good things. Whether that be an object, wearables, a space or a menu. Time and intention are key.

A day in my life usually consists of everything but consistency! As an independent curator, I  work on multiple projects at the same time that are often in different international spaces. I jump between administrative work, collaborating with artists and institutions, installing exhibitions and writing for publications.

My essential travel items: I get cold when I travel, so I love drowning in oversized sweaters that make me feel incognito and cosy. I use a luscious Aēsop face and hand cream to keep my skin happy and the face mist by lelive is a great travel companion. I am a fan of printed matter, so I buy publications whenever I travel. Some of my staples are Kinfolk, Apartmento and Design Anthology.

Nisha collects books and magazines like Danish lifestyle publication Kinfolk

The last holiday I went on: My last adventure started in Berlin with the opening of my exhibition Soil Conversations, followed by a trip to Paris for another exhibition I worked on. It’s such a great city with its arty areas, chic atmosphere, people and restaurants. I loved Brasserie Derrière’s flamboyance and magical interior. In Amsterdam, I saw a fantastic show at Foam by Sara Cwynwar. The city’s best sunset view is from the rooftop terrace at Soho House.

Derrière restaurant in Paris is where quirky meets cuisine. Image courtesy of derriererestaurant.com
Soil Conversations is currently on at Johannesburg Art Gallery. (Image_ Mvelo Midoli)

My most treasured possession is a simple golden ring that I bought at a market in Nairobi and have never parted with since.

The work of art that changed everything for me: It’s hard to say as art keeps moulding my perspective and understanding of the world. Late German choreographer Pina Bausch’s performance practice still resonates with me – the scene in Café Müller speaks of endurance, passion, madness, fragility and resilience. Watch out for Broken Chord by music artist extraordinaire Thuthuka Sibisi – it’s a contemporary performance that disrupts in a forceful and beautiful way.

The artist whose work I would love to have in my home: It’s impossible to reduce my wishlist to one piece, but if I am going ferociously big, it’s Jenny Holzer. And I’m talking about her huge, notorious in-your-face installations. I think Holzer and Tony Cokes are two of the few artists who use text so well in their works.

Art activist Jenny Holzer probes with a night-time light installation. Image courtesy of The New Yorker.

I am reading: I used to be the awkward kid, deeply sunken into books for hours, but these days it has become rare to spend time reading. There are three books that I read not too long ago that linger in my mind: Freshwaterby Akwaeke Emezi, A Million Years Ago in the 90’s by Ashraf Jamal, and Play It as It Lays by Joan Didion.

If I could invite anyone to dinner I would ask Helen Sebidi. I’ve met her once and she is like a chronicler of history. She’s in her 80s, a prolific artist and a strong woman who I would love to listen to and learn from. Frida Khalo would have been a great guest –  there’s so much mysticism around her persona and private life and she was an absolute pioneer in art and womanhood.

Helen Sebedi – chronicler of history, witty and unique

The soundtrack to my summer

  • Abaphezulu – iPhupho L’ka Biko, Siyabonga Mthembu, Kinsmen
  • Summertime – Janis Joplin, Big Brother & The Holding Company
  • Filha Do Sol – Charlotte Dos Santos
  • Feel Good – Terrell Hines
  • Blood And Marrow – Hiatus Kaiyote
  • God Is in Control – SAULT
  • Weather Machine Wilma Vritra
  • Wessi walking mama – dumama + kechou
  • Playground Love – Air
  • Antidote – Chick Corea, Ruben Blades, The Heart Band
  • The Duke – DARGZ, Moses Boyd, Simon Dufour
  • Kindness – HNNY

The best gift I recently received is something I gifted myself. I hardly do that and it was nice to consciously see it as a special moment. I ordered artist Kevin Beasley’s A View of a Landscape from New York – it’s a 300-page book of visuals and essays including a double LP collaboration with other artists. Having worked with Kevin in 2019, I cherish a deeper understanding of his work.

Kevin Beasley’s 300-page tome of visuals and essays – a magnificent object, says Nisha

My style: I am into the classics – good materials and great cuts, sophisticated but simple. I accentuate with jewellery, nail polish (Dior Nuit is my favourite) and lipstick shades that can anchor an outfit into the right mood. I love natural products such as Dr. Hauschka, lelive and Burt’s Bees (a great lipstick with a light tint that works with everything). For a delicious scent, definitely Rōzu by Aēsop.

Dior Nuit is Nisha’s go-to nail colour
Nisha’s signature scent is Aēsop’s Rōzu

My greatest artistic inspiration comes from looking at and learning from others. From the archives to the big names in contemporary art and most importantly my peers, community, friends and colleagues. I’m always inspired by conversations, utopic dreams and music.

To relax and unwind: I’m a workaholic so find it hard to relax. Gardening and cooking slow down my mind, with loud music playing.

My guilty pleasure is fries and a good whisky sour. Luckily they aren’t pantry staples, otherwise, I would be in trouble.

One of the most memorable meals I’ve had was in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam with my partner Monna Mokoena. We stumbled upon a restaurant and it turned out to be the most delicious meal.

In my fridge, you’ll always find dark chocolate, capers and butter.

workofmerit.org; @meritsworld; @momo.outskirts

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