Through their stories, my ideas concerning place began taking shape. This became the project Magharibi—Swahili for the navigation point west of the sun. Particularly with this work, I am exploring the process of place-making within a non native space by underscoring absence.” Beyond it being just a physical location, place is a keeper of memories and experiences, to leave the familiar is to be absent of it. The scholar Yi-Fu Tuan writes “…Place, however, has more substance than the word location suggests: it is a unique entity, a special ensemble, it has history and meaning. Place incarnates the experiences and aspirations of a people.”
“Inspired by the historical portraiture work captured in western America such as Edward Curtis’s Native Americans, I responded with a 4 by 5 camera and made black and white portraits. These were then paired with color landscape images I shot while in my home country, Tanzania. The effect is a purposeful representation of Africa as a homogenous location, despite my sitters originating from Burundi, DRC, Eritrea, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe.”
Conrad Egyir was born in 1989 in Accra, Ghana. Heavily influenced by a rich art form of storytelling in West Africa, his creative practice borrows from a pool of uniquely coded text and visually based language systems from Ghana. In an exploration of relationships between his past experiences in Africa and his present residence in the United States, he is drawn to themes that define the then and the now, differences and similarities, and the image and the self. His practice analyzes the relationships between the semiotics and historicity of these themes that lie within his African postcolonial upbringing and Western higher education.
“I create narrative paintings and portraiture. Woven between the fabric of my narratives are borrowed superstitious and symbolic aesthetics from West Africa, anachronisms from different cultures, and a deconstruction and redefining of colorism and identity as defined by Western academia. One parameter of this creative practice is to use subjects that do not fit in the timelines or settings of the borrowed stories that I reprise or conjure. Adults, for example, would interchange with children, women with men, nobles with commoners, etc. The essence is to transcend the notions of each character’s perceived responsibility designated by age, sex, class, and race. The image of one’s self, as an immediate template of portraiture, is also often multiplied in my narrative paintings. Concurrently the singular image can become victim and perpetrator, father and son, friend and foe. It is a tool that behooves the viewer to simultaneously step into the shoes of the multiplicitous character, while questioning the relationships within the image and self, be it one’s mental faculties that war against each other or side with each other.”
Basil Kincaid was born in 1986, and is based in St. Louis. Kincaid is very philosophical regarding his approach to his art making practice.
“My family is my driving motivation and primary artistic influence. Quilting as a practice is saturated on both sides of my family dating back over 100 years. My immediate influence as a quilter is Eugenia Kincaid, my grandmother on my father’s side. She appears to me in dreams, guiding my hands as we collaborate a spiritual level. I strongly believe that Quilting opens a portal for me to exist with all of my ancestors that maintained the practice and potentially beyond. Upholding family traditions in the face of oppression is essential within my healing process. Quilting within the black cultural tradition has always served as a revolutionary space of joy, courage, and community in direct contrast to social and financial subjugation.
My stylistic approach is influenced by the innovations, practices, and cultural products of Black Americans, and West Africans. More specifically, I am interested in Black American folk and fine art, music, poetry, and family traditions.”
Each artists participating in I Am My Story is a by-product of rich cultural traditions. Drawing from history and geography, they bring a unique perspective to what it means to be fully engaged in their furthering their stories.