Every month, Black Girl, Latin World likes to showcase beautiful Black artists that make us think and feel. This month’s addition to the Spotlight of the Month is none other than Visual Artist/Photographer Hakeem Adewumi. Check out this interview where Hakeem goes in on diaspora, art and why he pursues his passion!
Tell us a bit about your artistic background? Why you do what you do? How long you’ve been doing visual work?
I began taking photography seriously back in 2009 when I was enrolled at a community college in Dallas. My cousin had given me my first DSLR camera, a Nikon d40 that I used up until my junior year at UT. I pursue photography because its the most creative way I am able to articulate with the world around me. It allows me as an artist to enter into conversations about political/personal subject matter that I may not be able to speak about. Its my gift and message to the world.
Give us a little background on Distant Relatives. What is the project? What are some of the messages behind the project? How did it get started?
Distant Relatives is a collaborative exhibit on the African diaspora featuring works by Moyo and I. It’s a multi-sensory experience that examines the intersectionality of migration, culture and commonalities within various groups across the African diaspora. It presents an opportunity to take a closer look at the ways in which the diaspora connects us all.
Moyo and I realized that images from our separate trips abroad were similar in various ways so we decided to explore the commonalities of different peoples within the African Diaspora that are often not articulated as a collective observation.
Black Girl, Latin World is a space that prizes diaspora and the varied experiences of folks of African descent. What does diaspora mean to you?
One definition of Diaspora is “the movement, migration, or scattering of a people away from an established or ancestral homeland”. In particular context to the African diaspora it is also the underlying cultural thread that keeps us tied together in spite of our geographical, social or political differences. Finding those commonalities among African descendant communities is like finding the prize inside a cereal box! I feel great knowing that there are other people who look like me and understand that our shared identity is part of a larger narrative that has deep roots.
How did your identities come into play when you were creating this exhibit?
My identity is very important. Being half Nigerian and half Black American has allowed me to understand there are different approaches to understanding ourselves as Black people. In most parts of Africa the concept of Blackness does not exist because there is no white hegemonic structure that constitutes the majority in power. When Africans are confronted with Blackness in the Western hemisphere it is an assigned identity rather than an identity adopted orwelcomed as a political position to resist oppression. Often times we do not understand why Africans (West Africans in particular) and Black Americans “don’t get along” and we fail to realize that it has to do with their respective relationships to Blackness. So this exhibit serves as an opportunity to celebrate our differences but to also respect that other Black cultures have complex reasons for how they approach Black identity. Its also a platform for us to talk about social ills affecting the African diaspora that many do not know about or wish to talk about. I believe #BlackLivesMatter is a global issue.
What do you want people to take away from this work?
I want people to understand that people in the African diaspora are actually connected. Often times we (as African Americans) don’t get to travel to different parts of the diaspora to witness how we eat the same foods, we just prepare them differently; or we dance with the same rhythm, our music is just different. More importantly I want others to see that we go through similar social and political issues that shape the ways in which we view ourselves as Black people. There are tremendous movements and circumstances that force us to confront our Blackness in very similar ways. Understanding how these specific circumstances effect people who look just like us in different parts of the world allows us to see that our problems are a microcosm to a global system of oppression. Once we learn that, we can overcome that.
What advice would you give artists wanting to do this type of work?
Keep shooting! As a photographer and storyteller it is important to develop a style of shooting that represents your voice. You have to figure out “What do I want to say?” The very meaning of photography is the writing of light. Sometimes writers need to go through writing exercises or just brain dump and write random things on a sheet of paper Well the same rules apply for photographers. Most people think you have to have it all figured out before you start and that cannot be further from the truth. You have to start shooting in order to figure out what you want to say. JUST DO IT!
Where can people find more of your work?
Online at our respective websites:
Thank you Hakeem for sharing your story with Black Girl, Latin World. We wish you the best in all your endeavors!
If you or someone you know would like to be featured in the monthly Spotlight, please shoot BGLW an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.