Lioness Order by Nakazzi

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Lioness Order by Nakazzi

Nakazzi: Artist, Activist, Game-Changer

Sunday, October 11, 2020

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Nakazzi Tafari is a Jamaican-born artist with roots in Barbados, London, DC and New York. She majored in sculpture at the Jamaica School of Art. Her work, which utilises a variety of organic materials, giving them a distinctly Afro-Caribbean aesthetic and identity, has been exhibited in Europe, the US and across the Caribbean.

SO shares, courtesy of Tafari, an interview from Harlem Fine Art Shows: What Kind of Mirror image — Jamaican art of the Diaspora

Harlem Fine Art (HFA): How did you start making art?

Nakazzi Hutchinson (NH) I started drawing when I was four. At that time I liked to draw fairy princesses, mermaids and angels from the storybooks I loved as a child. When I was around seven I discovered the gold mask of King Tutankhamun on the cover of a National Geographic magazine and an image of a clay bust of Queen Nefertiti. I was fascinated by an intuitive recognition of self. At that point, I started to make clay head replicas of those features, my own features and also dreadlocked heads like the people who surrounded me at the time. I have always drawn, sculpted and painted.

HFA: What are you trying to say with your work? How does your work comment on current political and/or social issues?

NH: As a professional artist, my intent is to use my art as a vehicle or tool for cultural confrontation to effect a decolonisation of the psyche as it exists in relation to the lens of western supremacy subliminally marketing euro-centric beauty standards to black women all over the world through media imagery. This false ideology and plastic barbie doll look is being promoted in order to support an economy that thrives and profits off of feelings of inadequacy and self-denial we may experience as a direct result of being bombarded daily with visual cues where we do not look like ourselves. To put my likeness on a museum or gallery wall is to say see me “I exist!!! I am relevant.” This is a radical act of self-love.

In my work, natural hair and natural beauty are celebrated through the use of various afro-centric hairstyles, dreadlocks, Nubian knots, curly and kinky afro and twists. I create all of these hairstyles from organic materials that echo the very nature of our roots in their texture and structure. I collect these materials from the beach and from botanical gardens, harvesting palm fronds, driftwood, roots, sea-fans and various pods and cones from the forest floor. I have evolved a language through the act of repetition and persistent consistent change that is both modern and traditional as I enjoy pushing these boundaries to create a unique object of art that has my personal stamp as a recognisable aesthetic. Each piece is both unique, with subtle differences, and a part of a series. When I compose my sculptures in groups, I am inviting comparison and contrast which visually suggests a multi-cultural identity in a global village where there are a rainbow of colour mixes and phenotypes within the black race. It is really about the de-marginalisation within my own world view.

I also celebrate the female form and examine archetypal ideas of the woman as warrior and as a vessel for the creation of life. I work to portray an imperfect kind of beauty and realness to the body as well as trying to capture the idea of the transient and ephemeral nature of our existence here on earth. In this work, the nude female body celebrated as a form of empowerment striving for gender based equality -- but it is also fragmented -- to acknowledge the violence done against the woman's body by these same impossible beauty standards proposed by the film and fashion industries.

HFA: Who has influenced your work the most?

NH: I am most inspired by my mother [Jamaican artistic luminary Dawn Scott], who was a phenomenal artist and way ahead of her time. Regarding artists I have met personally: For artists that I met personally in New York, Otto Neals as a sculptor and Gregory Coates for his engagement with discarded industrial waste and the transformative process that forces us to question the organic and inorganic decay of our trash made transcendental with bold use of colour.

HFA: Who are some current artists you think everyone should be following?

NH: I watch a lot of artists' work on Instagram and examine their various styles. Influencers like Kehinde Wiley and Ebony Patterson are obvious choices. Tim Okamura delights me with his sumptuous surfaces and conjuring of urban spaces and people. Amy Sherald's cool clean minimalist backgrounds capturing something simple elegant and sophisticated. Realist depictions of modern black identity fascinate me.

Photos: Courtesy of Nakazzi Tafari


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