Art
'Beloved' by Tawny Chatmon.

Tawny Chatmon's 'The Awakening' Is an Assertion of the Richness of Black Motherhood

The multimedia artist celebrates the beauty of black familial bonds in her latest visual series.

Maryland-based visual artist, Tawny Chatmon's latest work The Awakening, is just that—a rousing collection of intricate, melanin-enriched pieces that truly awaken the visual sense.

"The primary theme that drives my art practice is celebrating the beauty of black childhood," reads Chatmon's artist's statement. "I am devoted to creating portraits that are loosely inspired by works painted during the 15th-19th centuries with the specific intent of bringing to the forefront faces that were often under-celebrated in this style of work."

The photographer's creative process consists of layering patterns and textures as well as combining mediums such as photography, painting and digital illustration to produce vivid statement pieces. "My camera remains my primary tool of communication," the artist tells OkayAfrica. "After a portrait session is complete, I typically digitally manipulate my subjects and unite them with other photographic components to achieve a work that is a new photographic expression."


The artist's decision to focus on black female subjects comes from a simple desire for expanded artistic representation. "I've chosen to highlight black women and children in my work because they have always been missing from works I loved growing up."

"My The Awakening series is a celebration of familial bonds, motherhood/fatherhood & an ode to black childhood. Loosely inspired by the work of Marianne Stokes whose portraits often showed the fine details of garments that were floor length and embroidered. The expression of childhood bonding is shown through portraits of breastfeeding, hair plaiting and styling and the intricacies of protecting and raising a child."

View Tawny Chatmon's stunning The Awakening series and keep up with her work via her website.

'Sunday's Child' by Tawny Chatmon Image courtesy of the artist.

'Reflection' by Tawny Chatmon Image courtesy of the artist.

'Braiding Hour' by Tawny Chatmon Image courtesy of the artist.

'Covered' by Tawny ChatmonImage of courtesy of the artist.

'Beloved' by Tawny Chatmon Image courtesy of the artist.

'Not Charolette' by Tawny ChatmonImage courtesy of the artist.

'Almighty' by Tawny Chatmon Image courtesy of the artist.

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Installation view of Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara © The Metropolitan Museum of Art 2020, photography by Anna-Marie Kellen.

The Met's New Exhibition Celebrates the Rich Artistic History of the Sahel Region

'Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara' is an enxtensive look into the artistic past of the West African region.

West Africa's Sahel region has a long and rich history of artistic expression. In fact, pieces from the area, which spans present-day Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, date all the way back to the first millennium. Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara, a new exhibition showing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, dives into this history to share an expansive introduction to those who might be unfamiliar with the Sahel's artistic traditions.

"The Western Sahel has always been a part of the history of African art that has been especially rich, and one of the things that I wanted to do with this exhibition, that hasn't done before, is show one of the works of visual art...and present them within the framework of the great states that historians have written about that developed in this region," curator Alisa LaGamma tells Okayafrica. She worked with an extensive team of researchers and curators from across the globe, including Yaëlle Biro, to bring the collection of over 200 pieces to one of New York City's most prestigious art institutions.

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Photo by Ngadi Smart.

Spotlight: Artist, Ngadi Smart, Captures Black Sensuality, Sexuality & Culture Through Striking Photography

In her new series, "Latitude," the Sierra Leonean artist explores the rich indigenous culture in Grand-Bassam, Côte d'Ivoire through the lens of fashion.

In our 'Spotlight' series, we highlight the work of photographers, visual artists, multimedia artists and more who are producing vibrant, original work. In our latest piece, we spotlight the art of Ngadi Smart, a Sierra Leonean photographer visual artist and illustrator based between Côte d'Ivoire and London. View images from her latest series "Latitude," and read more about the inspirations behind her work. Keep up with Smart via her website and on Instagram.

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Courtesy of Universal Music Group.

In Conversation with Daniel Kaluuya and Melina Matsoukas: 'This isn't a Black Bonnie and Clyde film—our stories are singular, they're ours.'

'Queen and Slim' lands in South Africa.

Melina Matsoukas and Daniel Kaluuya are everything their surroundings at the opulent Saxon Hotel are not—down-to-earth and even comedic at times. Despite the harsh lights and cameras constantly in their faces, they joke around and make the space inviting. They're also eager to know and pronounce the names of everyone they meet correctly. "It's Rufaro with an 'R'? Is that how you say it?" Kaluuya asks me as he shakes my hand.

Matsoukas, a two-time Grammy award winning director and Kaluuya, an A-list actor who's starred in massive titles including Black Panther and Get Out, have every reason to be boastful about their achievements and yet instead, they're relatable.

The duo is in South Africa to promote their recent film Queen Slim which is hitting theaters today and follows the eventful lives of a Black couple on the run after killing a police officer. It's a film steeped in complexity and layered themes to do with racism, police brutality and of course Black love.

We caught up with both of them to talk about just what it took from each of them to bring the powerful story to the big screen.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Art
Sajjad's artwork for "Pull Up" from Burna Boy's African Giant. Courtesy of the artist.

Meet Sajjad, the Artist Behind Burna Boy's 'African Giant' Album Art

We sit down with the artist to talk about the art behind African Giant and his use of currency to creates collages that tell ambitious stories.

"Currency is something that for the most part doesn't exist," Sajjad tells me over a crackling phone line. It would have been hard to hear him if he didn't speak firmly. "It's all about trust. We trust that a bill is worth a certain value. That's what makes it real. It's an interesting duality play on something that's real but at the same time isn't."

This philosophy is what informs Sajjad's art. Using currency, the artist creates collages that tell ambitious stories about unifying countries. In 2019, he created the artwork for one of the best and most important albums to come out of the modern Nigerian—and African—music scene, Burna Boy's Grammy-nominated African Giant.

Sajjad got the idea to start using currency as an artistic medium in 2016, when stopping at a New York City bodega—"these little convenience stores on every corner that sell everything!"—where he saw that they had put up dollar bills on the wall from the first few people who had bought things there. It was at that moment something in him clicked and he realized how many powerful stories physical bills could tell and represent. Inspired by this, Sajjad began a journey of using currency and other mundane everyday objects to create art that tells a bigger story.

We sat down with the artist to talk about designing the album art of Burna Boy's African Giant, the power of currency and what the future holds for him.

Sajjad. Photo: Dan Solomito

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