Last summer, Gerrit Rietveld graduate Ninamounah Langestraat shook up the runway with “an ode to the pure animal”. Aptly titled Mammals, her collection brought together the human with the animalistic, the heavy with the fragile and the dominant with the submissive. Worn by a wild squad, her carefully chosen models couldn’t go unnoticed. Here, Ninamounah talks to Patrick Cramer—one of her dear muses—to discuss sex, shame, purity and her approaching London show.
You were born and raised in Ruigoord, an idyllic place near Amsterdam where artists live to be away from the rest of the city. What was it like?
I used to sit next to the pond in Ruigoord and give singing classes to slugs. People of the village never questioned this. There was freedom for people’s ideas. Respect. I still find this very important: space for the imagination.
Is this why you have such a special affinity for a certain peculiarity, both in terms of people and things?
I am used to being made fun of. I used to bully myself a lot too. But when there are no boundaries to behaviour or appearance, no shame, our surrounding is pure and respectful. We don’t need to excuse ourselves for being who we are or who we want to be. This is freedom—it’s like taking a shit in the ocean. It’s something you and I cherish.
During your presentation the models felt very authentic, in a sense they fully embodied your collection. It felt as if we were set free.
My collections are wearable natural habitats for you and the others.
While working for and with you, I experienced that you’re constantly looking for purity.
I like to explore the meaning of purity. To me, purity stands for freedom from morality, especially of a sexual nature. It’s innocent. Freedom from guilt or evil… like a newborn child or drinking water. A child doesn’t have taught morals yet, it’s an animal in society. A child will take what it needs. This is a deeper form of purity. But is water still pure when people drown in it?
It really makes me think of when you showed me a pack of Polaroids, which you found on the street, of this beautiful woman. The woman in the pictures had a very mystical and vulnerable approach to portraying herself in her own home. I found that very pure and innocuous.
Yes, in one picture she’s sitting in a dog basket. It isn’t meant to be sexual, she’s just relaxing with her legs wide open and the dog takes a quick sniff. I find that picture hilarious; it’s the perfect situation between human and animal—the miscommunication, awkwardness and purity of it. Actually, did I ever tell you about my first experience with porn? Nobody had a television in our village, except for my father. He even bought a satellite antenna so we had 2000 different channels from all over the world. My friend and I would wake up early in the morning to watch television in secret, and by watching television I mean watching German porn. In a trance, we watched a woman brushing her teeth with the sperm of three different men. After she gargled and swallowed the cum, three generous men inspected her teeth. The same night I looked at myself in the mirror. And as I was standing in the bathroom with the toothbrush in my hand, toothpaste in the other, I knew everything had changed. The toothbrush didn’t change. My mind had changed; it felt dirty. So I completely relate to the situation in the Polaroid I found. The human, dirty mind and the animal.
Taking off from there, what or whom are you giving birth to next?
I’m not a “giving birth” person; if I could choose, I’d lay a lot of eggs. Right now I’m thinking up a big project for London Fashion Week in January together with JeanPaul Paula and Florian Joahn. And my collection movie, together with Stadman Lara and BEA1991, is coming out very soon…