"My soul is from elsewhere, I am sure of that, and I intend to end up there."
Caption: Nsenga Knight in a boat on the Nile River in Cairo with her sister Nuriddeen and two sons, 2022
I pray you are well and enjoying the holidays.
What a year 2022 has been! I'm currently back in Cairo packing up the last bits of my studio and apartment and also spending time with my family and friends. It was only this week that I came to the realization that Cairo is the city I have lived the longest in during my adult life. At some point in the future, I'll do a proper reflection on living in Egypt because right now, I might be in denial of the fact that that I'm leaving this place. I hope that can always consider Cairo my second home. Nonetheless, with 2022 coming to an end, I'd like to share with you some reflections garnered from my studio practice and life in general over the course of this year.
Nsenga Knight, Fitra: Amber (Sadja), 2022, 6’’x6’’ Watercolor Painting on Archival Clay Board
At the beginning of the year I presented my performance art and collaborative social practice project, X Speaks: An Appeal to African Heads of State at the Contemporary Image Collective in downtown Cairo. Creating this project about the connections between the African American struggle and the African continental struggle in Cairo and for the Cairo audience made me to feel more deeply connected to Cairo and gave me a greater appreciation for the nuances of Egyptian identity. For X Speaks: An Appeal to African Heads of State I was also able to utilize my Arabic language skills - which I developed over the 6-years of living in Egypt, to access the archive of Cairo press related Malcolm X's historic visit. Cairo, Arabic, and my identity as a Black American Muslim artist further coalesce in this project. Through art making - social practice especially, I am able to deepen my relationship to the particular time and place that I am situated in along with the people I am sharing the unique moment with. By engaging with the archive, we realize our shared history and context.
Nsenga Knight 2022, X Speaks: An Appeal to African Heads of State, Performance Art and Social Practice, Contemporary Image Collective in Cairo, Egypt
During the summer, I began my Fitra series; in it I'm expressing an Islamic concept that describes the most pure and intrinsic state of being. I think that our ability to be with others in generative ways is very much contingent on our ability to be with ourselves in a state of peace. The more that we can see ourselves - not as material beings, but as ever evolving spirits in bodily forms that are also constantly evolving, the more that we can connect with others in the true essence of who they are. When I reflect on Malcom X's anti-racism cry and rallying call for deep connection across the African diaspora, through my X Speaks project I have come to more deeply understand that the most tragic thing about racism is that it violates humanity’s natural disposition toward connection by turning a beautiful adornment (color) into an ugly cause for division.
Nsenga Knight, Fitra: Amber (Yusuf), 2022, 6’’x6’’ Watercolor Painting on Archival Clay Board
As you know, this fall I began a 2-year artist residency and In Situ Fellowship at the Queens Museum. I'm looking forward to sharing with you more about what I'm researching and creating through this newsletter and also in person during my art salons and studio visits. Respond to this email if you'd like to pay me a visit in the new year.
Caption: A self-portrait of 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. Visit my blog to see more BTS studio pics and the work I've been developing in my studio, including my research and artwork related to the newly available Arabic and West African manuscripts of African Muslims who were enslaved in America and that of Timbuktu.