zakkiyyah najeebah dumas-o’neal / To understand what space made for us feels like (Chicago)
by artist zakkiyyah najeeabah dumas-o’neal (2021)
I’ve been thinking deeply about what it means to create work that reaches spaces beyond representation, but into a space of elsewhere—to imagine ways of being beyond the systems we inhabit. I’ve been exploring this through a study of grayscale image making and utilizing the color black within my work as a destination for expansion, imagination, nostalgia, and the impossible possibilities of Black life; with an attention to family, Black women’s cultural contributions, queer and lesbian identities, and my own lived realities.
MY GRANDFATHER’S ARCHITECTURAL DESIGNS AND FLOOR PLANS HAVE ALSO BEEN THE CATALYST FOR THINKING THROUGH AND VISUALIZING SPACE AND PLACE FOR BLACK LIFE, LOVE, LEISURE, DREAMING, AND FUTURES.
Earlier on in my practice, my work has been mostly representational (centered on Black women) through photography and video. At the beginning of last year though and during quarantine, I’ve been thinking a lot about abstraction, architecture, physical space, poetics, and making work with my hands (drawing and building).
I had already been feeling somewhat tired from making representational or narrative-centered work,
and was dealing with internal conflict about evolving out of that for a while. As a young Black artist, there’s a lot of pressure to make representational work, and although I’m grateful to have made that work—I’m in need of something else and feel myself evolving into a space where I feel more confident about experimentation and following my love of abstraction.
BIO: zakkiyyah najeeabah dumas-o’neal’s (Chicago) work is most often initiated by personal and social histories related to family, queer identities, self interiority, and belonging. najeebah’s multidisciplinary practice borrows from the visual traditions of portraiture, candid photography, video assemblage, and collage. zakkiyyah seeks to reinforce a different kind of gaze (and gazing) that’s activated through empathy, desire, intimacy, love, and longing. Within these projects there’s an overlying theme of trying to make sense of, and complicating what and who she belongs to across time, location, and space.
zakkiyyah’s work has been included in numerous group exhibitions and she has had solo exhibitions at ADDS DONNA, Mana Contemporary, and South Bend Museum of Art. zakkiyyah has also curated exhibitions at Chicago Art Department, Blanc Gallery, and Arts + Public Life’s Washington Park Arts Incubator. Currently a 2021 Artist-in-Residence at UChicago Arts, Art and Public Life, zakkiyyah is also a co-founder of CBIM (Concerned Black Image Makers): a collective of artists that prioritize and support the shared experiences, concerns, and visual practices of lens-based artists of the Black diaspora.