Written by Aditi Patwari
You have probably heard about the Black Lives Matter movement by now. It has been taking the world by storm for the last couple of weeks since the brutal death of George Floyd. The controversial #BlackOutTuesday was part of this movement, an effort to pause on personal posts, amplify black peoples' voices, and spread awareness of the police brutality and decades of crimes committed against the black community in North America.
While many are finding out about this unjust situation in the country, the truth is that it has been a constant battle for centuries. The beautiful and powerful voices of Black artists and designers are finally coming to the forefront and we want to highlight some of our favorites.
There is still a lot of work to be done. Let's keep educating ourselves. Let's keep supporting and amplifying these important voices.
Medium: Quilting and applique using cotton, silk, wool and velvet
Image courtesy - Bisa Butler
Bisa Butler is an American Artist who creates cultured artworks using textiles. She is expanding the African American quilting tradition with her use of kool-aid colors. These are intense shades of bright oranges, crimson reds, intense blues inspired by colors seen in African textiles but used in a new way to create an African American aesthetic.
"We are a people who have come a long way. We do struggle and there are still a lot of social ills that are affecting my people. So I want to address that, but I also don't want this paternalistic view like 'oh, poor them'. I am not interested in that. I am more interested in seeing 'Look what we can do.' " - Bisa Butler
Bisa talks about the responsibility every artist has. Whether you are a writer, a dancer, film-maker, painter, sculptor, she believes you are reflecting the times that you live in. "And after you're gone, all that is left is that reflection."
Medium: Hand tufted tapestries
Image courtesy - Simone Elizabeth
Simone is a mixed-race woman of Jamaican and European descent living and working in Canada. She creates colorful works of portraiture and kindred creatures. Her tapestries are cultural investigations into identity and belonging; studying the Black female body, personal identities and a connection to Black history. And more recently, her work explores the Black Lives Matter movement, including a portrait of Ahmaud Arbery, another man who was killed due to racial discrimination in America.
In a recent collaboration for the Social Distancing Festival with American artist Tekikki Danelle (as follows), Simone said:
"Black bodies throughout history have been oppressed and it is important to highlight that this continues in the pandemic, Black people continue to be mistreated. This virus knows no color nor creed and yet humanity perpetuates hatred. Not everyone is afforded safety, which is their right: to wear a mask, to protect oneself. This is encouraged by both the American and Canadian governments, and many people of color - men in particular - do not feel safe entering public spaces while wearing a mask."
Medium: Mixed media collage
Image courtesy - Tekikki Danelle
Tekikki Danelle is a Chicago-based, American mixed media artist who creates collages and digital art.
While writing for the Social Distancing Festival about the recent violence against Black people wearing masks for protection during Covid-19, Tekikki said:
"What is meant for protection can also make one feel as though they are prey. This isn’t a new experience for many black people in America. We are often taught to shrink ourselves, alter our appearances, and monitor our behaviors to fit within the rest of society that benefits from the normalcy of its privilege... Systemic racism and oppression have the ability to leave many feeling voiceless in the midst of crises, acknowledged or not."
Medium: Mixed media paintings
Image courtesy - Patrick Quarm
Patrick Quarm is a Ghanaian born artist based in America exploring the concept of hybrid cultures and identities. He paints figures on layered and cut printed fabrics to show how individuals are made up of layers of stories and histories.
"What if, like clothes we could flip through the self like flipping through a wardrobe? What if identity is a skin we wear? To me this is how the hybrid (other) exists within a given space." - Patrick Quarm
In a recent interview with Art of Choice, Patrick explained the inspiration behind his work. " My quest has been to understand the human condition, what defines me as a person? What defines an African within a given social space and how these definitions determine how the African navigates through social spaces. With this in mind, I always think of history as the sedimentation of events. My task or my duty as an artist is to strip each layer after the other to bring clarity; to understand the past and how the past shapes the present. These ideas are also reflected in my process; how I layer one fabric over the other, one pattern over the other through the process of gluing, which represents the sedimentation of history or the burying of history and the stripping down of history. For me this is an essential process one must go through to gain understanding."
Dea was started with the intention of sharing cultural stories from around the world. We want to continue creating spaces for cross-cultural communication and understanding. The reality is that there is a lot of work that needs to be done before we see a truly equal world where everyone can be who they are.
Change is uncomfortable, yet it is necessary to move the world forward. There are beautiful and creative ways artists are sharing their support in the fight for equality. Let us amplify their voices. This week we focused on the important work by artists supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, and we will continue sharing other movements around the world.
We are open to your suggestions for other creatives using their voices for good.
Email your recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org
Resources to keep learning and helping the movement: