‘I AM SHE’ IS THE PERFECT ART EXHIBIT TO VISIT THIS WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH!
By Awa Gueye
March 13, 2019
I had the pleasure of viewing Imani Shanklin Roberts’ latest collection of works called “I AM SHE” at the Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn. The exhibition could not be a better celebration of Women’s History Month, celebrating the divine feminine. This work was created after Roberts took a step away from art to embark on a journey of self-discovery. Roberts uses archetypal expressions of Black Womxn in the 21st century as a way of embracing the full spectrum of who we are.
We spoke to Imani Shanklin Roberts about her work.
This year’s theme at AFROPUNK is “We See You.” What does that mean to you?
Being “seen” is critical. Seen as an artist. Seen as a Black woman, and seen in the world amongst the billions is huge. It can be used in daily colloquialism amongst friends and strangers as just an, “Ok! You doing your thing” affirmation, but on this platform it’s magnified and emboldened. Seen here is to be making a mark and doing something worth being captured and noted.
Where are you from?
Washington, DC — born and raised. Currently based in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. Still repping DC with my ID and 202 area code.
Please describe the concept and meaning behind “I AM SHE.”
I AM SHE is a visual exploration of the 21st century Black female identity through seven different archetypal expressions: Rebel Woman, Wombman, CareFREE & Black, VisioNOIRy, High Powered Woman of the World and Lover. These expressions were the most dominant in my journey as a woman and now mother. They are also common amongst the women in my life. The conception of this show unfolded after becoming a mother and investigating what it meant to be a Black Woman today and hoping one day to share that with my daughter in my motion and stance.
Can you tell us a bit about Weeksville Heritage Center and how you came to work with them?
Weeksville Heritage Center is such an important institution. It’s been a free community for Blacks since the mid-19th century and now aims to preserve the history of Weeksville, Brooklyn while being a space for its community, the arts, historical preservation and civic engagement. Through my partnership with The Culture LP, I gained the interest of Rob Fields, Weeksville’s President & Executive Director and was granted the gallery space to show my work for the entire month of March. Which divinely is Women’s History Month.
It’s Women’s History Month and we are celebrating the divine and the feminine. How do you define womanhood in relation to your Blackness?
I look at the presence and existence of the Black Woman as the Belly and undercurrent of the fabric of our world. So much has came to be because of her dynamism, innovation, support, care, beauty, style, plight and power. Black womanhood is often defined and connected through the lens of oppression — a second-class citizen to be Black and doubly bruised to be a woman. I reimagine and counter that in my personhood and my art. Painting Black women boldly, beautifully and empowered as they are and will forever be.
How does your work positively contribute to the female experience?
Representation matters. To see a reflection of what you are or what you aspire to be is huge in our world. For me, to paint Black women, not in the role of mammies, hyper-sexualized, perfected or as a man, allowed me to create real images of women. Black women immortalized and represented in OIL PAINT ON CANVAS — a medium usually reserved for high society white folk.
Where can we continue to follow your work?
I AM SHE is on view until the end of March at Weeksville Heritage Center. There will be a closing celebration and artist talk on March 27th from 6-9, featuring Yogi Sihnuu Hetep, Sirius XM’s Tracy G, Attia Taylor Founder of Womanly Magazine and collaborating artist Alicia DeLarge and Myself. Moderated by Syreeta Gates. There will also be high-powered femme sets by DJ’s Tru Violet & Cam Wink.