How Silence Cultivated My Artist Voice

We are officially down to the last 10 days of Ramadan and Muslims all over the world are eager to get their blessings, alhumdulilah!

As you probably know, I was living in Cairo, Egypt for six years and just moved back to the United Staes in January of this year. One of the many things I used to love about Ramadan in Cairo was the quietness of the mornings when all the shops are closed and the special silence right at sundown when everyone has retreated indoors to break their fast. Cairo is usually a busy and bustling city but if you go outside at iftar time, you can just be without the interruption of anything.

More than any other sound, I like silence. I don’t even like listening to music in my studio, so when I say I like quiet, I mean it furreal. Silence is a major opportunity to get in touch with your true voice. I seek it out and enjoy large portions of it each day.

Nsenga Knight seated in her Queens Museum studio where she is 2022-2024 In Situ Fellow and Artist in Residence

There are enough voices in the world, and if we don’t dedicate some of our time to towards silence, we won’t know the voice that is our own. Instead we risk being the amplifier for everyone else’s voice.

Every artist has their own way of dealing with the incredible amount of time that we tend to spend alone in our studios. I think the space of artmaking is sacred. The studio is a space for me to gain inspiration, process all the inputs from the world, select new ones and to free myself of excess. One of the greatest challenges and opportunities in making art is honoring the voice that wants to be heard through the silence. So long as we show up, it shows up.

Nsenga Knight Plateau #1: Present in Your Presence 2016 – Ongoing, 32 x 40 inches, Archival Inkjet Print on Hahnemule paper facemounted to none-glare Plexiglass and back-mounted to dibond with aluminum brace and cleat on back
The artwork pictured above is from my Plateaus series, which I began in 2016 and continue to develop. This series builds upon my interest in historical archives, abstraction and the possibilities of photography. Two works from this series will be exhibited at DIMIN Gallery as part of the Surface Level exhibition which opens on April 27th, 2023. You can learn more about my Plateaus series and even inquire about purchasing one of the works in this series here.


a brown skinned Black mulsim woman artist wears a black hijab, brown duster sweater, light blue jeansm and brown boots and sits at a drawing table surrounded by art in her artist studio at Queens Museum. Two photo lights are on either side of her
Nsenga Knight in her Queens Museum studio where she is 2022-2024 In Situ Fellow and Artist in Residence