Updated: Jun 17, 2022
Karen Seneferu visual artist and curator. Self taught and thought provoking, Karen's aesthetic celebrates history and a cosmic narrative. Her afrifuturistic approach provides a curative meeting between technological and the spiritual. Karen curates the recurring 'The Black Woman is God' (TBWIG) exhibition at the San Francisco art space SOMArts.
"The Black Woman is God will assert that celebrating Black women are essential to building a more just society and a sustainable future. The project will explore the intersectionality of race, age, and gender and will dismantle stereotypes of Black women." Karen Seneferu
© Nicole Dixon - “Symbols of God” presents a rejuvenating feeling, using the body as empowered symbols that highlight the inner strength and gilded spirit of the Black women.
You curated ‘The Black Woman Is God’, can you share what the exhibition is about? Our mission is to foster the development and to heighten the visibility of Black Women artists. Over the past 6 years, the project has built solidarity among Northern and Southern California Black women artists by promoting social interactions across generations, walks of life, citizenship status, socio-economic circumstances and places of residence.
The Black Woman Is God (BWIG) project also challenges mainstream constructions of Black femininity and the Eurocentric cultural narrative of divinity as exclusively white and male. We present original works by Black women artists addressing the cutting-edge social justice issues of our time.
The Black Woman is God’s 2020 event will comprise a series of spoken word, music and dance performances. A multi-media visual arts exhibition of 40 new works, several film screenings and panel discussions exploring Black women's valuable contributions to American society both as artists and as social change-makers. This exhibit will partner with African American Art and Cultural Complex, Mills College, and SOMArts.
© Shana Strauss - “Memory Keeper” is dedicated to Strauss’ grandmother Bibi who tells the story of Leti.
Growing up you attended the Free Breakfast for Children Program run by the Black Panther Party, do you have any fond memories that you can tell us about? I remember how beautiful the young men and women were that fed me along with 15 or 20 Black children in a Catholic school auditorium across the street from the public school I attended. I didn't have to be fed by them. My Mom made breakfast for my siblings and me, but I would leave home 15 minutes early, so I could be fed by these youth. The oatmeal and toast were warm, and I just remember saying, I had never seen such beautiful people before, so I went there to eat and look at them. That is when I wanted to have my hair in an Afro and ran home after school to ask my Mom and Dad could I have one instead of a press an curl. That was the moment of claiming my body as a 10 year old as something beautiful, which is so necessary for black girls, black women. These young black people were inviting, loving and beautiful. That has stayed with me.
© Kytana Winn - “I Found Myself in Space” Through her investigation, Kytana questions what would a divine feminine in space look like?
What is your philosophy about the spiritual and cultural significance of the black woman within the universe? Black women, biologically, spiritually, and historically, have been the center value. Our DNA holds the mitochondria of the human race, illustrated in the documentary The Real Eve that focuses on this idea. Our strength to endure the horrors of white supremacy, patriarchy against our children, community, and ourselves and still be able to love, reveals the deep humanity we maintain despite this systemic intention- otherwise.
The scholars such as Syliva Ardyn Boone, the first Black woman to receive tenure at Yale University who is best known for Radiance from the Waters: Ideals of Feminine Beauty in Mende Art. Marimba Ani who focuses on the importance of African culture. Dr. Cres Welsings whose concerns are why racism and white supremacy exist, and Queen Afua's holistic health rituals, rooted in African cosmology through healing the womb are central to my philosophy on why TBWIG is important to me.
© Idris Hassan - 'Untitled' capturing the dynamic presence of everyday living that Black people experience while simultaneously conveying the regal presence that permeate the existence of Black people.
In terms of cultural creativity, what is not being represented in the art world? Every form of art is being created but if it is seen as product, like art, the value of that product is determined by the industry, and only a few will be at the center of that adulation, suggesting this product is as rare as the air it occupies. As long as that continues, we know that Black art, Black art produce by Black women will not be seen as central to the art world.
There are Black women artists who have not made a name for themselves such as Kara Walker and Mickelene Thomas just to name a few. I think artists must make it their duty to change where the lens is placed. There needs to be an education within the Black community about valuing art as legacy, which will shift what we claim as assets.
© Karen Seneferu - the piece engages the audience to pick up the phone at the African altar to hear the voices of Black mothers during court, asking police officers why did they kill their children. Karen desires to make the audience experience the beauty, the trauma, and resilience of Black mothers.
Is it difficult to be a curator and an artist? Not for me. I love them both. I find both require creativity, problem solving, and implementation of a vision-getting others to see what you imagine even if they may not see it but trust you, the vision-all of that functions in both fields. TBWIG to me is a large art piece that comes together with multiple parts, and individuals who work with me constitute the whole.
© Dana King - “Gold Black” poses the question is gold in Blackness or Blackness hidden in gold?
What artists should we look out for?
I will focus on Bay Area since that's who I mostly work with now.
Dana King is seen as an emerging sculptural artists but prior to that, she was an news journalist for many years. There is Karin Turner, who theme is the watermelon. I see her work as subtle and political. She presents the watermelon with voluptuous Black women. And although the work is illustrated, that is the tool that pull the viewer in to reclaim the watermelon and Black women as sacred beings, much like Karin herself. Kytana Winn is a young, dynamic Afri-Futrurist artist who work keeps expanding. I am excited about what her art career has in store for her. And then there is Sydney Cain or Sage Stargate, another young phenom, whose work evoke ancestral chants.
But there are so many incredible visual and performing artists, in the Bay Area. There is Zakiya Harris, aka, Shape shifter, Valerie Troutt, Jennifer Jones, Idris Hassan, Ayana Ivery, Ayodele Nzinga, Tarika Lewis, Lava Thomas, Nicole Dixon, Regina Evans, Virginia Jourdan, Erica Deeman, Colette Eloi, Regina Evans, Amara Tabor Smith, Shonna McDaniels, Candice Antique Davis, Angela Welman, Lalin St. James, and Angela Hennessy. This is just a short list, and this why I had to create The Black Woman Is God exhibit to showcase the important contribution Black women bring to the art world often overlooked.
All images courtesy of Karen Seneferu, Named Artists and The Black Woman is God exhibition. Website: http://www.theblackwomanisgod.com/