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.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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