"My soul is from elsewhere, I am sure of that, and I intend to end up there."
I pray that you are well. As you may recall from my previous newsletter, I was blessed to start 2023 doing Umrah - a voluntary pilgrimage to Makkah. I experienced a range of emotions while being in Makkah and Medina - mostly a sense of otherworldly serenity, and since returning to the US I have been seeking to stay connected to that feeling. This week when my 5-year old son Yusuf visited my studio for the first time, my experience making art with him really got me to thinking about how art and rituals give us a sense of elevated purpose and belonging.
Nsenga Knight 2013-2022, Tawaf/ Say: Mankind, Oil Stick and Gesso on Vegetable Parchment Paper, 22.5 x 22.5 inches
Here's what happened...
So, Yusuf is 5 and he loves to paint. He also gives me the most heartfelt and sometimes elaborate compliments on my artwork. After making his watercolor painting with me, he felt very proud of himself and his creation. I instructed him to put it on the table to let it dry, but he insisted that his art be hung on the wall like my artworks instead. I realized that even for someone so young he understood that his self expression was important and his watercolor painting being hung up on the wall elevated his art and honored him as its creator. It helped him to feel seen. So much so, that he wanted me to send the below picture of him and his painting to as many people as possible.
My son Yusuf in my Queens Museum studio.
Yusuf's instinctive understanding of the importance of artistic creation - and how his own purpose could be translated and expressed through art reminded me of why my children helped inspire my Fitra series. Fitra being the great potential, pure and special nature that we all have. It's only through allowing ourselves to shift and be transformed, by art or any other means that fulfill us, do we reveal our highest purpose, express the best of who we are and share our unique gift with the world.
I believe that art should elevate, connect and inspire people.
Caption: A self-portrait of artist Nsenga Knight in her Queens Museum studio where she is an Artist in Residence and 2022-2024 In Situ Fellow. Artworks on her studio wall include (l-r_ Tawaf/ Sa'y: Mankind, Square One, Tawaf/ Sa'y: Only, Plateau #1, and her Fitra: Amber series
P.S. If you are new to my artwork or want to dig deeper, visit my website or blog here to read and see more. Here's a link to a blog post related to my Tawaf/ Sa'y painting series for instance.