Deep belly breaths… meditation has always served me from a place of awareness. Like leaving the thoughts in my mind instead of trying to push them out. Or paying attention to where the thoughts go to inside my body. Like what thoughts invite more peace and smoother breaths and what does it feel like. I use movement and breath like that to commandeer a mindful state that tells a story. As creatives we are inundated with so much damn information all of the time, so we have to be intentional about sifting through the garbage to get to the Jewels.
Over the weekend, I found a bracelet with my sister‘s name on it at a rural thrift shop far away from the big city where we’re from. I had actually gone back to get something for an art project when I came across the bracelet. There was no reason on earth that I should’ve ever found a bracelet with her name on it at that location, place and time. It was confirmation that were conn no matter how far apart. Also of a truth I had known all along. It’s wild how divinely guided both my art and life path is. How ancestors and spirit confirms and reaffirms every time. My sister and I share the same father, so we didn’t grow up together. In fact, I don’t even know if the spelling on the bracelet is the correct one, but I know its her name. Gives me joy to say it aloud. I haven’t seen her since 2007, after a painful truth, not mine to tell, came out about her and our father. Made me weep for my sister, but proud of the courage she was born with.
Movement is one of the many ways I work in this life to heal my families lineage in the next because I truly believe we can’t just honor ancestors and those to come simply with words, but we have to honor them in our actions, the ways we live out our lives, the ways we change traumatic, unhealthy patterns in our structure once normalized. When I push, pull, bend, flex, stomp it’s a cosmic wave of energy that does something for them too. This movement is my sister Maisha for her courage and innocence lost…
Honest to God, I just wrote my dad who is in prison, explaining to him many things, but mainly that we can’t continue to shrink into or behind shame and guilt. We can’t shrink because the pain can grow us if we let it. We can no longer hold ourselves hostage for bad choices we made or hide behind distorted mindsets and actions either. We have to do the work that will allow ourselves to be eternally free beyond this body, beyond this earth. Because the truth will set us free or on fire.
Moko Jumbie for the codes in his fabric are one of protection, life lessons, cautionary tales and superstitions prevalent in the American South. It’s the 5th mask I made in the Antebellum Tribal Afrikanface Collection. I feel like my art instinctively connects to my past and to my loved ones. Moko Jumbies are stilt walkers. Moko means healer from central Afrika and Jumbie means ghost/spirit from the West Indies that may have come from the Kongo language word zumbi. Moko is also said to be a Yoruba Orisha God of retribution. Moko Jumbies are also thought to have come from West Afrikan tradition brought to the south by those in the Caribbean.
This mask is likely my favorite because it resonates with the energy and spirit of my ancestor and brother David Berry. I feel the same energy of protection, sacredness and timelessness. A presence strong, bold and statuesque just like my brother was in this life and most certainly is an ancestor in ethers. Check out my process in the images below. Now on view @pavaagallery.
Sometimes when we create a work of art messages and meaning don’t always show up in the beginning. I didn’t know the story in her fabric would be connected to Ogun until earlier this week after reading a summary from “Surfaces: Color, Substances, and Ritual Applications on African Sculpture”. I was in awe that I somehow channeled all of the colors associated with Ogun. Literally, even down to the deep black of her face. It was a pleasant surprise to read line after line, tapping in deeper and deeper, but then again this work is spiritual so it makes so much sense. Ogun has been an impactful energy in my life from his inspiration from the Shadowkeepers & Roothealers exhibit at Amtrak. According to Yoruba creation mythology, Ogun led the orishas to Earth and helped them survive and adjust. He cuts paths through all thickets and obstacles with his machete. Ogun is a culture hero: he taught people ironworking like that of railroads etc., as well as magical and spiritual rituals, hunting and warfare. Now on view @pavaagallery.
I call her AfroDalit, for the story in her fabric was sourced from India. The 4th mask I made in the Antebellum Tribal Afrikanface Collection. I created this piece, one to show that Afrikans live all over the world and two to correlate shared experiences of the oppressive caste systems of Afrikans born in the American South to those born in India like (the Siddi” descendants of the Bantu people and the “Afro Dalit” better known as the “untouchables” of India who are darker skinned Indonesians).
Did you know that Dr. Martin Luther King and his wife once visited the land of Mohandas Gandhi in 1959? After being introduced by another distinguished person as a fellow “untouchable”, he was at first offended. However, story has it that he began to think about the 20,000 Black people he was fighting for in the US, people consigned to the lowest rank for centuries, smothered by poverty, quarantined in isolated ghettoes, and exiled in their own country. He then said, “Yes, I am an untouchable, and every negro in the United States of America is an untouchable.” In that moment, he realised that the land of the free had imposed a caste system not unlike the caste system of India, and that he had lived under that system all of his life. And the irony is that still happening today. Now on view @pavaagallery!
Meet Ojise the Griots Griot, the 3rd mask I made in the Antebellum Tribal Afrikanface Mask Collection, whose name means messenger in Yoruba. The stories in his fabric is one of mystery and magical and holds secrets and tons of messages to be unearthed from past, present and future antebellum Afrikan descendants. Check out photos below of my process. Now on view @pavaagallery.
I call him Mr. Jute, the 2nd mask I made in the Antebellum South Afrikanface Mask Collection for the codes in his fabric are durable, tough and textured. His eyes are spiritual and possess life times, stoic, peaceful, calm. The epitome of resilience, stillness. It’s the second mask I made in the Antebellum Tribal Afrikanface Collection. Check out my process in the images below. Now on view @pavaagallery.
I was commissioned by Music for Everyone to create original artwork that will be paired inside the sleeve of a record that will feature a speech by Frederick Douglass titled, The Hypocrisy of American Slavery, for their Songs for Justice project.
Thoughts on the speech: I interpret Frederick Douglass’ speech, The Hypocrisy of American Slavery, as a battle roar that ironically mirrors too many experiences faced on a global level by Black communities today. However, the biggest lie taught in our worlds history that must be unlearned is the delusion of white superiority and being afraid of the dark. These times may be many things, but certainly not dark.
About the piece: I named the piece, Ancestor Tones because I want to pay homage to melanin. All shades of Black skin are vibrant, biological reflections of nature and the universe. In fact, the very cosmology of enslaved Afrikan people and their descendants is a form of universal wealth. It’s an unspoken truth and inherent birth right, no matter how one was born into it. Ancestor Tones explores themes of Afro-futurism connecting past, present and future. I think of Frederick Douglass as an Afro-futurist because he paved the way as a community educator and revolutionary for the Black people of his time. Not to mention he was the most photographed human-being of the era. He embodied what reimagining a Black future looked like by the way he controlled the narrative of his Afro-diasporic experience of the day. And continues to inspire generations in modern times. Take Amanda Gorman for instance, the youngest Black inaugural poet in American history. She credits Frederick Douglass with teaching her how to use technology for social justice. She reminds us of how intentional he was about capturing a counter-image to the Black American stereotypes at the time and how important that message is in her own work. You’ll notice hints of red and gold, a symbol for Amanda Gorman on Inauguration Day. The glow of her young, gifted and Black spirit, shining so much bigger than her body. Center to deep, Black, shadowy cowrie shells, wool and cotton, symbols of the million and one ancestral spirits surrounding her, journeying with her as she reclaims her humanity.
I always treated money like trash. And I miss when my friend Bilal was alive #RIP friend! And when he would call money “bonez”. Like, he would say, Dude! Let me hold $20 bonez lol! Whole other meaning to working your fingers to the bone. Here I am. Here we are.
I wasted enough time. Time trying to be better. Time trying to be better than myself. As if being better could stop my heart where it beat. As if the weight wasn’t imposing. As if sanctimony didn’t collapse me to my knees shattering the bones, every time. So long I struggled to stand on my own. Shrunk in my truth. I used to crawl to only where I fit. Fit. Fit. Fit. Fit. Only to start bursting at the seems. I liberated so many skirts that way. Truth is truth had grown too big, too fast. Truth needed permission to spread like love, but better played tricks like fear does.
Disenfranchised my privilege to think. Had me convinced I would die there until the hour I rescued my love. She was all petrified in a fetal position tucked way at the base of my spine. I coaxed the brittle fragments, the ones that were sharp from fusing together, the ones that protected, the ones that would cut long, deep and wide.
My love sought refuge, snuggled up against my collarbones. My love rebuilt herself from the lies. My love welcomed that wich was not fully recovered, nor healed, scarred, injured, cold, shamed. My love knew the truth of our oneness. My love learned to BE all in the gratitude of our darkness. Cause our glow is the dark.
A poem I wrote this day in 2015. 👂🏾to the love in my voice. 🥰
Spent time in the woods again today. Enjoying this app paring sounds and movement. 🙏🏾 for your time.
Always managed to write my life, but never imagined I could illustrate it too lol! If 2020 taught us anything, it is resilience in it’s most unbridled form. Romanticized the idea of writing several styles of books for the last 20-yrs, but never did. Collaborating as illustrator on Zetta’s newest novella, showed me that I can do it too. I’m no longer willing to put my dreams on hold just because I don’t know how or where to start. This project taught me to start somewhere. Thank you so much for this opportunity @zettaelliott! Trusting it will reach all those that need it’s fruit.