Moki Cherry was a visual artist and a musician in the second half of the twentieth century.
Moki Cherry was born in 1943 as Monika Marianne Karlsson. She was born in Storheden, just outside of Luleå in Norrbotten. Her father was a station-master and her mother worked at the post-office. In 1962 Moki Cherry moved to Stockholm in order to study fashion at Anders Beckmans skola (now Beckmans designhögskola, college of design). A few years later she met the American jazz trumpeter Don Cherry when he made a guest appearance at Gyllene Cirkeln in Stockholm. At that time Don Cherry was one of the leading figures within American avant-garde jazz. The couple began a long-lasting artistic and cross-genre collaboration which included so-called happenings, music, art, posters, and record covers. Moki Cherry had already had a child in 1964, a daughter called Neneh, with a musician named Ahmadu Jah. Four years later Don and Moki Cherry had a son together called Eagle-Eye Cherry. Both of Moki Cherry’s children went on to have successful musical careers in their own rights.
In 1970 the Cherry family moved to Tågarp in Scania, settling in the former school. Tågarp quickly became a focal point for all kinds of creative developments, with Moki Cherry and Anita Roney, her neighbour and colleague, usually taking central roles. Within the newly-established Kulturföreningen Tågarps skola (Tågarp school cultural association) Moki Cherry and Anita Roney staged children’s theatrical productions which toured across Sweden and further afield. Both of the women’s sons, Eagle-Eye Cherry and Shanti Roney, performed amongst the corps of child actors.
In 1971 Moderna Museet in Stockholm appointed Don and Moki Cherry to run an open stage as part of the Utopier & Visioner 1871–1981 exhibition. A large cupola-shaped tent which Moki Cherry had furnished with materials and artwork was placed in the middle of the stage and jazz and improvised music concerts were held within it. Pontus Hulthén, then head of Moderna Museet, was made responsible for setting up the Centre Pompidou cultural centre in Paris and he engaged the Cherry couple to run a similar studio for children there.
Moki Cherry’s background lay in fashion and she was primarily a textile artist. She also produced several illustrations for her husband’s record covers during the 1970s, created playful and colourful stage-settings in textiles, produced posters, and made stage costumes. Later on she primarily created appliqué work in silks, as well as photo- and pictorial collages, and she also sculpted in wood.
From the end of the 1970s the Cherry family split their time between Tågarp and Long Island, New York. Fredrik Liew, curator at Moderna Museet, produced a written presentation of Moki Cherry’s art ahead of a retrospective exhibition held at the museum in 2016. In it he highlighted the cross-genre nature of her work, which included design, art, theatre, and music. Although she was a child of her time she also had her own identity. “[Her] artwork was inspired by experimentation, such as ‘gröna vågen’ (the green tide), the subsistence lifestyle and cultural projects for children”.
Moki Cherry died in Tågarp in 2009. She is buried at Farstorp new cemetery.