Early A.M/ Late P.M., BAR, Curators, Solo Exhibition

It’s really early in the AM or, super late at night right now. I usually wake up this time, around 2 or 3 am and stay up for a few hours to zhikr, meditate, pray, read, just be really quiet. Sometimes I get some really great ideas for project at this time. Those ideas come with such clarity, just roaring. I love this time of the day/ night. It’s such a liminal time. All peace.

I was at the Black Artist Retreat last month and I had a really great conversation with another artist who really loves to work at this time, her  aunties also apparently love to get up at this time to pray. They are really well balanced people she says.

I wanted to write a little bit about the Black Artist Retreat, it was so intense and so wonderful in too many ways to describe. It’s just really awesome that Theaster Gates has been putting on this retreat for three years now. This was my first year. For the first two days it was just us Black Artist retreating from all over the country, and two from other countries. Lots of deep conversations about Fred Moten’s book, The Undercommons. Fred Moten was there too. Lots of socializing. It was really great to see and meet so many Black Artists in one place. I thought, if I can just do this every year, I’ll be good. Well, I’m good anyway, but my thought really is that the retreat was so different from my every day life in that I don’t see other Black artists anything close to that number on a regular basis. I live in Durham, and it can be really quiet over here. Compared to where I grew up, in Brooklyn and my first art communities throughout New York, this can feel like living in a cave, or making art in a cave. I love it. I’m usually a bit surprised when arts administrators get in touch with me about doing an exhibition. I still have that, ‘how do you even know about me?!’ reaction. That happened to me earlier this year when a curator got in touch with me about participating in their museum’s auction. I had to double check that it wasn’t a fraud email. Then later with the Under Color of Law exhibition I was really floored to be showing with Terry and Carrie Mae Weems especially. But, then it kept happening throughout this year, curators asking me to participate in really awesome projects and shows. I’m grateful. I’ll try to be a little less in shock or suspicious.

Talking about curators, I just read that this curator Omar Kholeif from Egypt by way of many places, most recently the UK is Coming to America! I read a recent interview of his and I was like, OMG, I think we may be kindred art spirits. He said this: “I want to look at the histories of Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and how we draw parallels between those regions and Western knowledge.” Stop playin…! Yes!!! I hope he gets to know my work really well and vis versa. This has been such a big interest of mine since forever. Especially in grad school I was just like, I’mma talk about Malievitch’s Black Square and the Black Cube (Kaaba) at the same time. And I really hated the way art historians seemed to want to separate everything. Like, how can you talk about Klein without talking about Japanese or Chinese calligraphy. That’s just irresponsible.  Or talk about Frank Stella without talking about Islamic Geometrical art. Well, I actually saw a talk of his at the Toledo Museum where he says he was influenced by a trip he took to Iran back in the 60’s. I was disappointed that the Art Historian didn’t ask more about that.

Well, talking about Frank Stella… I actually came on here thinking I would also finally blog about my current solo exhibition, White Circle, Black Square, Silver Pentagon. The exhibition is up right in my area in Durham at Room 100 at Goldenbelt Studios. It really looks amazing. I put a lot of work and thought into it, and even reinstalled a wall drawing that I first created back in 2012. That was no small feat. I had to do the math all over again.

Wall Drawing, 2015 install
Wall Drawing, 2015 install

I love it. I’m glad the gallery was open to me installing it because I know no one has ever done a wall drawing in that space before and deinstalling it (i.e.. painting it over) will be more work than they usually put in to deinstall. But, I love to do a wall drawing whenever I have a solo exhibition. For me, it marks the space as a specific site that needs to be addressed in a unique way with brand new considerations even if all that work in it has been shown elsewhere before. It’s new again. It does make the job of installing a bit more demanding. And for me so far, the wall drawing is the most minimal and abstract piece in the show. For this show it  is the white circle, black square, and silver pentagon all in conversation and its the formal inquiry that I’ve been obsessed with for a few years. Those three shapes need to talk. And they do… in my solo exhibition. The work will be up until September 29th, 2015. Goldenbelt is located at 807 East Main St. in Downtown Durham, NC  27701. Room 100 is in the Arts Building #3.

White Circle, Black Square, Silver Pentagon (panorama of exhibition)
White Circle, Black Square, Silver Pentagon (panorama of exhibition)
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Exhibitions and Updates

Please mark your calendar for three of my upcoming exhibitions this fall at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston (November 21, 2015 – February 14, 2016, opening Friday, November 20th), at Project Rowhouses (Oct 24, 2015 – Feb 28, 2016, opening Oct 24, 2015 ) and my solo exhibition, White Circle, Black Square, Silver Pentagon at Room 100 in Durham, NC which opens September 1st. For the Project Rowhouses exhibition, I’ll be in Houston from October 10th-24th to create a site-specific installation in one of the rowhouses.

Two of my works, All and Absolute from my Ritual and Revolution project are currently on view at Visual Art Exchange in Raleigh, NC. The WERD exhibition runs until July 31st, 2015.

I’ve just finished updating my site with documentation from my two recent projects: Make Safe Make Space (2014) and X Speaks: Nsenga Knight and X Collaborators (2015). The Make Safe Make Space page now has a short video documentary of the project and documentation of the most recent istallation of the Make Safe Make Space prints installed as part of the Under Color of Law exhibition at Berman Museum this spring:

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x-speaks-flier-UPDATE_0131

The X Speaks page now includes videos of the eight collaborations.

Get in touch if you’d like to know more about any of my projects or upcoming exhibitions.

#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.

AME_SecretaryFaatimahFBFromMuslimsCard

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:

https://www.launchgood.com/project/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!”