“Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colors and races here in this ancient Holy Land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad and all the other Prophets of the Holy Scriptures. For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colors.”

-Malcolm X
Nsenga Knight, Tawaf/ Sa’y: Powerful and Exaulted, 22.5 x 22.5″, Oilstick, Olive Oil and Gesso on Vegetable Parchment Paper.

If you’re like me this year and haven’t been able to perform Hajj, you might be wondering if the rain is going to stop anytime soon and feeling disconnected from the recent hajj rituals and the significance of the sacred month Dhul Hajjah. You are not alone if you feel this way. Outside of the ritual sacrifice and meat-heavy feast of Eid Ul Adha most of our communities don’t speak much about what is to be gained for all Muslims by reflecting on the hajj rituals.

I performed Umrah earlier this year but I’m not a Hajji yet. I used to feel disconnected from the hajj until I learned about Hajjar – the Black woman in whose footsteps every hajji walks, and connected to her story of resilience and determination.

text painting with luminous circular text in foreground and black linear text in background
Nsenga Knight, Tawaf/ Sa’y: In Love With/ Struggle For, 22.5 x 22.5 in, Oilstick, Olive Oil and Gesso on Vegetable Parchment Paper

…Since then, the hajj has been a deep source of inspiration for my artwork, as well as Islamic rituals and the journeys of Black Muslim Women.

I find that I can get to know myself through connecting with them. I’ve done that in my Tawaf/ Sa’y series which is inspired by Hajjar’s story that shaped the Hajj rituals, and through As The Veil Turns as I sat down to learn about the lives of some of the Black American Muslim community’s pioneers who converted to Islam prior to 1975.

Nsenga Knight, As the Veil Turns: Fatimah, 20 x 30 in, Black and White 35mm Photography, Archival Pigment Print

When people come to my studio where I have these works hanging on my walls, they feel that just by being there with the art, somehow they were a part of the creative conversation, or even a part of the artwork itself. Every time my collectors see the artwork in their home or office it says something different to them. It’s like the artwork itself finally found the person it was seeking out. In 2022 I had an amazing conversation with one of my collectors where we discussed my work, art in general, and the importance of engaging with art, and having art engage and reflect the community it arose from.

You yourself might be driven to seek out others to bring into the conversation; will anyone in your life find comfort in the rhythmic, circular motion of Tawaf? Do you know anyone who savors meditation, be it on top of Arafat or while looking at an intricately created painting? If yes, then connect them with art that will elevate their space and soul. When people buy my art they’re joining the conversation I am seeking to have as an interlocutor with the artwork and our shared history.

Nsenga Knight Other Stars Don't behave so drawing expresses the complex ideas of abstraction in both Islamic art and in Al Baruni's drawing about the moon cycle. As a Black Muslim woman artist she is influenced by the Islamic art and science traditions as well as western abstraction
Nsenga Knight 2013, Other Stars Don’t Behave So, Ink and Wax Drawing on paper, 20 x 30 inches

You can browse my Hajj inspired art here, and the rest of my art collections here.

%d bloggers like this: