Kafia Haile, a former government employee, is a local artist and writer. She contributed a cradle to an exhibit of the Cradle Project, which raises awareness about children orphaned or made poor by AIDS in Africa. The exhibit will be at the Washington Studio School through Friday.
How did you get started as an artist?
I was deployed to Iraq as a civilian in 2008 and when I came back I was just frustrated. ... I wound up leaving my job and I was sitting at home and was just frustrated trying to think of what else I should be doing, what other career moves I should make, and I opened my closet and found a canvas and paint that I bought maybe a year before and just out of boredom, I started painting. ... I didn't paint for another year until 2010, and then from that point on I kept painting.
What influences your artwork?
A lot of it is based on family history. My family originally comes from Mississippi, and a lot of them moved up to Chicago during the Great Migration. ... Another thing that influences it as well is color.
Tell me about the cradle you made.
It features a figure like a silhouette of a person, and I wanted that figure to represent a mother or an aunt or a grandmother -- someone that's caring for a child. And the headpiece that the figure is wearing as well as the pillow that's inside of the cradle are made from a graduation cap and gown. ... The reason I wanted to use a graduation cap and gown was so that the orphan child that the cradle would hold, that that child would have that cap and gown as a reminder of its potential for success.