#WhoIsBurningBlackChurches | Respond With Love: Rebuild Black Churches, Support Victims of Arson Across the South

I feel like a proud parent. Well, I am a proud parent but this time my proud parent feeling is about the work that my little sister Faatimah Knight is doing. She is not so little – she’s 24, but in her young age she is doing work that is thoughtful, compassionate and meaningful. A few weeks ago she rallied the America Muslim community to join my family in a collective effort to send gifts of condolences to the Emmauel AME church in Charleston South Carolina after 9 Black parishoners were killed there in a racist terrorist attack last month. Earlier this week, she posted these pictures of  Mrs. Althea, the Secretary of the Emmauel AME church receiving the flowers.


Her latest project is leading an effort to raise funds from within the American Muslim community to assist in rebuilding Black Churches that have been victims of arson in just the past few weeks since the mass murder of 9 Black people at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, SC. Here’s an excerpt description of her project from her Launchgood fudraising page:

8 Black churches have been burned to the ground since the shooting of 9 parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. These church burnings happened within the span of 10 days. Three were undoubtedly set by arsons; the others are pending investigation. But to many it is clear that these are attacks on Black culture, Black religion and Black lives. These kinds of attacks on Black churches are a very old form of intimidation in the South, historically used to strike fear into the hearts of Black people.

…We must always keep in mind that the Muslim community and the black community are not different communities. We are profoundly integrated in many ways, in our overlapping identities and in our relationship to this great and complicated country. We are connected to Black churches through our extended families, our friends and teachers, and our intertwined histories and convergent present.

Faatimah will be continuing to raise funds for the church rebuilding efforts until the end of Ramadan, which is next week. We are really close to the finish line. FromLauchngoodPost

To learn more about this project, and to participate in this effort visit the Launchgood page for Respond With Love: Rebuild Black Churches, Support Victims of Arson Across the South:


Drawing: Tawhid and Right Brain Thinking

I was talking to a friend yesterday about my new and enhanced love for drawing.

In this Oprah Winfrey interview with neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor, she talks about her realizations during and after having a stroke on the left side of her brain. Without the full functionality of her left brain, her right brain was no longer checked by language and the ability to name and differentiate things. She experienced a great sense of connection and oneness.

Oprah’s interview with Dr. Taylor helped me to understand what was going on when my teacher demonstrated drawing a still-life of two apples. I realized that my teacher was not naming things as she was drawing. The apples were just curves that appeared before her. Not two separate apples, but curves who’s relationship to one another allowed for each of them to appear to be apples. When I realized this- that she was not deciding to draw two apples by naming them as such and then drawing them,  I had a real breakthrough. What I was witnessing was another reality of Tawhid (Oneness) and I no longer needed to give a name to what I was seeing, but just accept it and draw it. I didn’t have to finish one object before beginning another – because I was no longer seeing them as separate objects. Drawing on this new realization, I was in a sort of euphoria and you couldn’t take the silly smile off my face as I drew the new still life. I was getting it!  I moved my charcoal all over my paper as I made lines, curves, and other marks appear as renderings of objects.

I’m making some new still-life drawings and I love it. I’ll probably exhibit some of my new drawings at my next solo exhibition at Room 100 at Goldenbelt Studios this September. I love love love experimenting and challenging myself in new mediums. My new thing these days is taking classes on everything I do not know well but would like to be skilled in. This includes things like waterless lithography (learned that earlier in the year), Arabic (I’m a beginner and my husband is teaching me more), and swimming (I’ve started an Aqua Tots class with my baby boy and I’m going to learn how to swim for real this summer inshaAllah).

Every medium I work with teaches me something new about life. The first big lesson I recall learning from art was integrity – I learned that as a dancer. Drawing teaches me not to name things; at least not before I really look, accept and connect.

The Lynching of Kalief Browder (and I’m going Public!)

I’ve decided to go public! ….with my thoughts. Having this site where people see lots of images of my work is great and with those images I also have this desire to write and share publicly in a part of cyberspace that I feel belongs to me. Today, June 10th 2015 is the first day of this blogging aspect of my website.  I’m motivated to write due to a lot of hope and some heart clenching emotions and deep sadness about Kalief Browder’s suicide on Saturday, June 6, 2015.

I don’t get to have a conversation with everyone who has the opportunity to look at my work online or in person, but, maybe this blog will do some of what a conversation seeks to accomplish.

Here I’ll speak more plainly.

Or, I might ramble on…

Sometimes you’ll just look at what I’m looking at and listen to what I’m listening to:

There is for me, something especially painful about the loss of this young man. The fact that he hung himself feels like only a technicality regarding his death. His death, his suicide is the result of deep trauma, our society’s lack of empathy, racism, and extreme injustice. We have seen many images of Black people, black men especially hung with a rope wrapped around their necks. We call those lynchings. We haven’t seen one exactly like this in a long time. I imagine that what Kalief Browder’s mother witnessed when she saw him hanging from a window in their home looked quite similar.

samcarterKalief Browder looks so familiar to me. His  suicide is especially tragic because it symbolizes a loss of hope, one for which Black people especially cling onto. We look at our own history and even our current situation and we wonder how we have held on to joy and even moreso, our humanity, dignity, kindness and love for one another (and even this country) in spite of the constant attacks on us by the oppressive system that oftentimes is stacked against us.

Yesterday I was listening to a program on NPR where a writer was talking about how Ghandi instructed Hindus to remain non-violent and commit suicide instead of fighting back. He said this would shame their oppressors. I don’t support suicide and I do not agree with non-violence at any cost. I do agree that what causes people under such duress to commit suicide points back to the oppressor and the traumatizing effect of  their oppression. They are blameworthy. Shame on them!

Shame on all the demonic system and all of its evil minions who caused this young man so much suffering.  Who paid him no mind when he suffered mental illness and punished him more for this, caused him to lose his mind and beat his body, and then finally lose hope. They wrapped a noose around his neck and pointed him to the tree. He was so traumatized,  mentally ill, burdened and heavy with sadness; that this weight coupled with the noose caused him to lose his life.

To see a young man like this lose hope and know that he must have felt that he had reached his limits… well, I am at a loss for words. Just sadness, anger, exhaustion, empathy, sympathy, a desire to hold and coddle him, I wish I could rock him back and forth and tell him that tomorrow will be better, he is stronger. God still loves him, he survived, and he will thrive again. Even moreso, I wish I could get him a plane ticket out of the hellish shit-hole that has become much of America for so many Black people and show him that the world is bigger, people are better, and there is a B-side to this scratched up record; a B-side that has not been listened to where the songs are slower and a little more experimental. I wish for people in such traumatic situation to be shown a better escape route. There is a route to freedom and the underground railroad still exists. Please search for allies. Search for answers and new routes to freedom. I don’t know what would have helped Kalief and I don’t blame himm for what he did. I just wish that no one else does. We have to get people out of the hell they are living in before it’s too late.

Please comfort one another.

When asked, “Who gives a fuck about your feelings?”, –  particularly the feelings of Black people suffering,  please say “I do!” 

Ritual and Revolution at Artspace, Raleigh, NC

Artspace Raleigh, NC August 2-31, 2013
Ritual and Revolution (installation view) 
Artspace, Raleigh, NC
August 2-31, 2013


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 1, 2013 Artspace 201 E. Davie St. Raleigh, NC 27601 http://www.artspacenc.org
CONTACT: Artspace info@artspacenc.org 919.821.2787
Nsenga Knight’s Ritual and Revolution on Display in Artspace’s Lobby Exhibition Dates: August 2-31 Opening Reception: First Friday Gallery Walk, August 2, 2013, 6-10pm Artist Talk: August 15, 6-7:30pm Raleigh, N.C. – Raleigh, N.C. – Regional Emerging Artist-in-Residence (REAR) Nsenga Knight will exhibit her work for the month of August in a solo exhibition, Ritual and Revolution, as a conclusion of her six-month residency at Artspace, a non-profit visual art center in Raleigh. This concept-driven artist explores abstraction and conceptual art in a range of media as they inform and coincide with traditional Islamic Art. She explains, “My work expands upon the common aesthetic and theoretical concerns of the conceptual arts movement of the late 60s and 70s, performance, minimalism, abstract expressionism, and both Western and Islamic geometrical abstraction; and reflects my interest in ritual, subjectivity, history, archiving and intervention.” Knight’s work explores concepts including unity in multiplicity, repetition, and transformation of forms. An identical twin, Knight developed an interest in multiples that appear similar but have distinctions. The seriality expresses itself with systems, like those made historic by Conceptual American artist Sol Lewitt (1928 – 2007). She used her residency to continue working on her Last Rite project, which is “an interdisciplinary visual art project whose narrative pivots between Malcom X’s pilgrimage to Mecca in 1964 (his fulfillment of his last religious duty) and his funeral rites – the final ritual regarding his physical presence on earth.” In a series of new drawings, Knight stencils words excerpted from the book Hajj (The Pilgrimage) by Dr. Ali Shariati. She layers the quotes and produces each set in a series of four, painted in oil stick and mixed media. The order of text, and direction it is written in, follows a system. One layer is top to bottom, left to right, with every other line going upside down; another layer is in a circular direction. In one series of four, the first layer of text is painted in white, and the next layer in black; in another series, the first layer is black, the next layer white. In one evocative iteration, the first layer is black, and the next layer is done with olive oil, so the stenciled letters are partially transparent and take some of the black oil paint from the first layer of words. Among the quotes that Knight uses from Shariati’s text, Hajj, are “as a butterfly who encircles the candle until it burns, its ashes are gone with the wind, disappearing in love and dying in light.” The language used demonstrates the complexity and beauty inherent in Islamic culture, and ways in which contemporary visual art can help others learn more about it. An artist talk with Nsenga Knight and Rose Aslan, PhD candidate of Religious Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, will be held at Artspace on August 15, 6-7:30pm. Knight has a M.F.A. in Photography and Cinema Studies from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. in Film Production from Howard University. Her recent exhibitions include The First Year, Galveston
Arts Center, Galveston, TX, Muslim Voices of Philadelphia, International House, Philadelphia, PA, and Reading with Jamal Cyrus, New Museum, New York, NY. For more information, contact Artspace at http://www.artspacenc.org or 919.821.2787.

Artist in Residence at Artspace

Artist in Residence at Artspace

From January 8 – July 6, 2013, I will be an Artist in Residence at Artspace in Raleigh, NC. Artspace has a unique open door policy and educational program which invites people to engage in the artmaking process by visiting the artist studios at any time during public hours Tuesday – Saturday, 10am-6pm. Feel free to stop by my studio #215 during the week. I will also be participating in First Friday Open studios each month where you can enjoy refreshments and visit between 6pm and 10pm.

You can reach me at nsengak@gmail.com ahead of time to coordinate a visit.

I look forward to seeing you soon!

Jan. 28, 2012: Open Studios @ Galveston Artist Residency Grand Opening

Announcing the opening of the Galveston Artist Residency and Gallery,

A new Gulf Coast Arts Initiative.

We are pleased to announce the official opening of the Galveston Artist Residency (GAR) and Gallery on Saturday, September 28, 2012 from 4-9pm. In honor of the opening, GAR will have the current artists in residence studios open to the public, a show of the resident’s work and a celebratory party to mark our beginning with food and live music. Galveston Artist Residency is located at 2521 Mechanic Street, Galveston, TX 77550.

This year we were excited to welcome Nick Barbee, Nsenga Knight, and Kelly Sears to GAR as the first, full time artists-in-residence, and Colin Hunt as the Summer 2011 artist-in-residence.

Nick Barbee works in a variety of media, dealing with formal concerns of presentation, the history of abstraction and historic narrative. Barbee will be showing his body of work Cato, recently on view at Rice University’s Emergency Room. Nsenga Knight is an interdisciplinary artist and filmmaker whose work poses questions about process, power, representation and the construction of historical narratives. Knight will be exhibiting a series of photos that are part of an ongoing project. The work has also been exhibited at the Ice Box in Philadelphia. Kelly Sears is an animator and filmmaker whose collage-like works are created from discarded periodicals, books, archives and orphan films. For the fourth time, Sears was selected to screen an animated short film at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The film, Once it Started it Could Not End Otherwise will also be presented at the GAR opening. Colin Hunt is a painter who lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. Hunt’s fragmented trompe l’oeil paintings are a meditation on love and despair and blur the line between memory and the tangible.

GAR was created to promote and encourage the knowledge and appreciation of art by giving artists a gift of time and space for the development of their work. The residency provides studio space, accommodation, and a stipend to three artists annually. GAR is committed to supporting serious creative artists of any discipline. This includes, but is not limited to; visual artists, multimedia or film artists, writers and composers, with a special interest in artists who are involved in non-commercial endeavors, environmental or sustainable living projects or projects that can increase community involvement or social awareness. The residency is open to emerging artists as well as mid-career and established artists.

Potential recipients of GAR grants come from a pool of artists nominated by a jury of independent art professionals. Residency applications are sent to this pool of nominated artists, and Residency grant offers are then sent to the artists selected. At the present time there will not be open calls for grants or applications for residency.

In addition to our residency program, the GAR Gallery and Courtyard will host various public programs such as art exhibitions, film series, open studios, lectures, etc.

GAR is located in a pair of radically redesigned and rebuilt industrial structures on the edge of downtown Galveston. These former cotton-baling workshops now comprise studios for four artists, a dedicated gallery building, courtyard garden and outdoor display/event space. Construction was underway throughout 2011 and is now complete.

For more information about the Galveston Artist Residency, please visit our website at www.galvestonartistresidency.org, or email us at info@galvestonartistresidency.org.

Clifford Owens: Anthology at PS1 MoMA

Clifford Owens. Anthology (Nsenga Knight) (detail). 2011. Performance still. Courtesy On Stellar Rays.

Clifford Owens: Anthology

On view November 13, 2011—March 12, 2012

For his first exhibition at a New York museum, Clifford Owens (American, b. 1971) presents a new project Anthology, which is comprised of photography, video, and live performance.

Anthology features performances scores—written or graphical instructions for actions—that Owens solicited from a multigenerational group of African-American artists. Twenty-six major artists have contributed scores, nearly all of whom composed new works specifically for Owens and his project.

Read more about Clifford Owens’ Anthology project at the MoMA PS1 site