When I started this series HANDS UP I was living in my own world of hurt, and so my perceptions, my love and my art reflected this.I focused on portraying Black men wearing clothing that was used to racially profile them.I wanted to fight stereotypes with intensity.
The title HANDS UP was coined with police brutality in mind. But this quickly revealed how heavily I was leaning on the narrative of victimhood and internalized racism, amongst other -isms.
Slowly I felt the need to express light and love with equal intensity.
The paintings you see today are what has come out of chaotic introspection, decolonization, emotional work and learning how to take care of plants.
The term HANDS UP has shifted its meaning with the paintings.We do not only lift our hands in surrender and defense,but also to praise, to celebrate, to dance;We use them to pull each other up
The Black Lives movement in 2020 was another pivotal catalyst. All the mirror paintings I had up to that point have all been erased by now. They were no longer relevant once I started to ask:
Who am I without my mirrors?
Growing up without community, I relied heavily on media and books to show me who I am, as someone identifying to be American, and an Ethiopian descendent.This resulted in a sense of identification with black pain and victimhood.
This is not all of what it means to be a part of the African diaspora.
I would also try to fit into the aforementioned community (that i wasn’t actively belonging to) through music, clothes, or language. I held on to little comments by other people that seemed to accept me as black or African and internalized the ones that rejected me.
This only unsettled my relationship to my Self.
Identity will always be an illusion if it is stagnant; We are never the same person twice as the minutes pass by.
Even when the change is passive.
These works are a way for me to find freedom, and some truth.
In a way, they have been my way of claiming my own version of identity, and restructuring my worldviews.
Circling back to passive change, each of these works have their own lifespan. They grow in symbiosis with my own personal growth.I am so happy to share my works with you; both the matured and the younger ones.