Memoir X: A Seat at the Table (Part 2)

All images pertaining to the artist have been provided courtesy of them

I think part of it is accepting
That there’s so much beauty in being Black.
And that’s the thing that I guess I get emotional about, because, I’ve always known that.
I’ve always been proud to be Black.
Never wanted to be nothing else.
Loved everything about it, just…
There’s such beauty in Black people,
And it really saddens me when we’re not allowed to express that pride in being Black
And that if you do, then it’s considered anti-white.
No! You just pro-Black.
And that’s okay.
The two don’t go together.
Because you celebrate
Black culture does not mean that you don’t like white culture; or that you putting it down.
It’s just taking pride in it.

But what’s irritating is when somebody says,
‘You know, they’re racist!
That’s reverse racism!’
Or ‘They have a Black History Month,
But we don’t have a White History Month!’
Well, all we’ve ever been taught is white history:
So why are you mad at that?
Why does that makes you angry?
That is to suppress me and to make me not be proud

Interlude: Tina Taught Me (2016) by Solange – A Seat at the Table

May 1921, Tulsa, Oklahoma, The United States, Jim Crow is in full effect across the country, and within Tulsa resides this area known as the Greenwood district. It’s a bustling community full of black-owned businesses from movie theatres to pharmacies to hair salons. It’s such a thriving area that it even earns the nickname, Black Wall Street from the legend himself, Booker T. Washington, but within 2 days, it was all destroyed.

On 30th May 1921, a black 19-year-old shoe shiner called Dick Rowland requires the toilet. He works for a white-owned shoe shinning business, but because this is the era of Jim Crow everything is segregated. So, he can’t use the toilets in his workplace – he has to use a “coloured” toilet. Now, his only option is on the third floor of the Drexel building, which is a couple of blocks away.

So he walks into the Drexel building, enters the elevator, and notices a white girl who is 17 operating the elevator. The girl who is operating the elevator is called Sarah Page. Now in terms of what happens next in the elevator, we don’t know. But what we do know is as the elevator stops, the doors open, Sarah screams, and they both run out.

A day passes, and Dick is arrested. He is taken to Tulsa’s County Courthouse, and the allegations he is faced with is the rape of Sarah Page in the elevator.

Now, what stoked the flames of this narrative was The Tulsa Tribune and its headline, “Nab Negro for Attacking Girl In an Elevator”. What was dangerous about this headline was the phrase “Attacking Girl”, and back then, this was a euphemism for rape. So, with such a headline such as this, it was a call to action for many white supremacists in Tulsa, and within the early hours of that day, a white mob began to grow around the courthouse.

In terms of the black residents of Greenwood, they weren’t naive to what the mob wanted. They knew the white mob wanted to kill Dick; they wanted an excuse to lynch the 19-year-old. So they banded together and marched to the courthouse to protect Dick, and they did this with courageous fashion by marching with weapons.

But as courageous as this was, this infuriated the white supremacists even more, and they responded by calling more white supremacists – who brought their weapons too.

Now at this point, the white supremacists outnumbered the black residents, and within a matter of seconds, chaos. The white supremacists shot at the black residents, looted the Greenwood district and set fire to the whole area. For two days straight, Black Wall Street was on fire, and by the end of those two days, more than 1,200 homes were destroyed, and dead black bodies were in rivers and mass graves. In terms of those who survived the massacre, they were forced to live in tent cities for months with no justice being served to those who destroyed their homes and livelihoods.

The Tulsa Massacre is a reminder of the racial violence that occurred during the Jim Crow era. Within America’s 20th Century history, it is one of the worst episodes of racial violence.

But The Tulsa Massacre shouldn’t take away from what Black Wall Street represented. Black Wall Street isn’t just synonymous with The Tulsa Massacre, it is synonymous with many things such as black excellence, black economy, and black entrepreneurship. For black people such as myself, Black Wall Street represents a possibility, because, for a moment in time, there existed this black mecca for black people. Black Wall Street was a beacon of hope for black people living in segregated America.

And it is here, I ask the second part of my question I posed in Memoir X: Part 1 with Ayobola Kekere-Ekun, should black artists form their own table? So, do we open up our own galleries? Form our own collectives and celebrate ourselves? Do we do our own thing within the art world like the black people of Greenwood did in segregated America?

If we look at this question, it’s not really that unique or new. There have been many black artists who have attempted this. For instance, if you look at the UK, you see the likes of Donald Rodney, who along with Keith Piper, Eddie Chambers, Marlene Smith and Claudette Johnson formed the BLK Art Group.

The BLK Art Group, in my opinion, was crucial for black art in Britain. Formed in 1979 in Wolverhampton, England, the group came into existence when Thatcher was prime minister. The timing of the group’s creation was impeccable because someone had to create work that explored social and political issues through the lens of a black person. Someone needed to ask questions about what black art was, its identity and what it could become in the future, and these were the perfect individuals. Descendants of Caribbean migrants, the founding members knew what racial injustice was, and they experienced it too. In fact, Rodney and his peers were even told by their tutors, there was no such thing as a black artist. So they were on a mission to form their own table and give black artists a voice in the UK.

To the establishment, their work was shocking and radical, but they didn’t care. They saw their work as important, and in my opinion, they set the precedent for black art in the UK during the 80s. They critiqued art history and demanded their place in it.

Someone who is also demanding their place within art history is the talented Cydne Jasmin Coleby. Throughout her collages, Cydne examines topics such as culture, family and self-love. What started as self-portraits have now expanded into something even greater. So with that being said, let’s explore the life of Cydne Jasmin Coleby.

Like all the artists in Volume III: The Maverick Series, Cydne’s story begins as a child. During her childhood, she was always sketching, “I kind of had a knack for art as a child. I remember seeing this dinosaur in this book, and I drew it. I showed my mom, and she was shocked. She didn’t believe me – she thought I traced it. So to see if I was telling the truth, she wanted me to bring the book I got the image from. So I brought the book, and she compared it to the drawing, and smiled saying, ‘Oh?! My child can draw!’”.

After that day, Cydne’s mother always encouraged her to pursue art, and it was through her mother she was introduced to the legendary Bahamian family, the Burnsides. Cydne’s mother was very good friends with the legendary pastry chef, Julia Burnside, and it was through their friendship Cydne was exposed to Julia’s two brothers, Jackson Burnside and Stanley Burnside, who were well-known visual artists in The Bahamas. “The Burnsides exposed me to all these creative elements. When I walked into their family home for the first time, I saw all these cool paintings, and I could feel something in me that just kept on saying, ‘Tell me more!’”.

Rebel Princess {free from the weight of that crown} (created 2021) [Acrylic, decorative paper, glitter, androsia fabric, and photo collage on canvas, 101.6 x 76.2 cm]

Rebel Princess (created 2021) is its own painting, but alongside Mudda Pat (created 2021) and Heir Lesley {Her Mudda’s Shadow} (created 2021) the three paintings work as a triptych. Within Cydne’s family, she has two older sisters. The oldest is called Lesley, and the sister after her is called Abby, which this painting is based on.

If we didn’t have that context, we could still figure that out just by analysing the title of both Heir Lesley {Her Mudda’s Shadow} and this piece. Lesley is the eldest and the heir to this matriarchy. Whereas Abby, who is the second child, isn’t, and as result, she is free from this duty of upholding this matriarchy. She doesn’t have to set an example since she isn’t the first child.

I think the title Rebel Princess is an interesting play on words because rebelliousness is a characteristic thought to be seen in children who are the middle child/second born. Alongside this, it is thought that they feel left out within the family; they are more adaptable to change and are more social. “I look at my family, and I see a lot of things my mom went through replaying themselves in my oldest sister, and it’s like she’s almost walking in her footsteps. But I look at Abby, and she hasn’t taken that same path. It’s like she doesn’t have that same pressure to walk in those same footsteps. She’s able to go in the direction that she wants to go in. So it’s like… She’s a rebel princess”.

It’s the freedom from that matriarchal pressure that Cydne wants to display here. If we look at the figure, she has a beaming smile. The painting is already vibrant with its bright colour palette, but it’s this smile which in my opinion, adds another level of vibrancy to this painting.

Queen in Training (created 2021) [Acrylic, decorative paper, crepe paper, fabric, and photo collage on canvas, 101.6 x 91.44 cm]

Queen in Training (created 2021) is one of my favourite works by Cydne, it just oozes a colourful aesthetic that just grabs you. The piece is based on a real photo of her sister, Lesley. After seeing the photo, Cydne felt compelled to create this piece: “In that photo of my sister, I could see how she carried herself, and I sat there and said, ‘Wow, she looks so powerful and confident’”.

If we look at the child, she exudes this regal and poised energy while sitting in the chair, and this is another feature I love about this piece, her body language just screams, indomitable confidence, and when you have that contrast with the child and the background’s colour palette it just makes that statement even louder. “I wanted to show that confidence because one thing I see within children, especially black children is they enter this world with this certain level of confidence. Like you’ll notice that they carry themselves in a way that lets you know how they feel about themselves. Like Serena Williams, when she was growing up, she had this crazy level of confidence in her interviews, and you would see the interviewer trying to break her down and ask, ‘Well, why do you feel that way?’. I think once you see that kind of confidence, you have to nurture it and remind them that they are something special, and they should be proud of themselves. I have a niece, and she’s three, and she says, ‘I’m a princess!’, and we’re just like, ‘Yeah, you’re a princess’. Children enter the world with so much self-worth, but they learn otherwise – it’s taught out of them”.

Cydne also stated she wanted to reference Junkanoo within this piece. In terms of Junkanoo, it is a Bahamian festival that has been around for over 200 years. When the enslaved Africans arrived in The Bahamas, they used indigenous materials to recreate their festivals, and over the years, it evolved. It started as protests and rebellions, and it has now flourished into a festival that celebrates all things Bahamian. The costumes worn during the festival are made from a multitude of materials, from colourful crepe paper to gems, and it is here we see the effectiveness of having a collage-based art practice. Because Cydne uses her skills as a collagist to really embellish this piece by infusing elements of Junkanoo. For example, around the child’s neck, we can see lilac crepe paper, and if we look at her dress, it is gushing with different colours and patterns. “Every Bahamian child remembers their first Junkanoo – it’s like you’re watching magic. Every child is there and is excited to see the first crew come out on Bay Street. So I’ll be honest, Junkanoo is something really special to me, and you will always see elements of that in my work. I think the influence of Junkanoo is so strong that I don’t even have to think about it consciously when I create the work – it just comes through by itself”.

After her encounter with the Burnsides, Cydne was determined to pursue an art career. “It was interesting because there were a lot of people who were like, ‘What the hell are you going to do with art? How are you going to sustain yourself?’. Like I literally had somebody tell me that doing art was a waste of time. But I just had that conviction in myself – I knew what I wanted to do was art”.

When it comes to her parents, starting with her mother, Cydne considers herself to be very fortunate: “My mom is the type of person where if her child tells her they want to be a garbage man, and they feel like they are going to be happy being a garbage man. Then she will be like, ‘I want my child to be the happiest garbage man ever’. My mom never imposed a career on me – she didn’t do it to any of her children. She never made us feel like we had to fit into some public standard. She didn’t believe in this idea of being respected because of a well-paid job. No. For her, it was about getting joy from what made you happy because she saw joy as this thing you can’t buy; she saw joy as the most valuable thing in the world”.

In terms of her father, he was against the idea of her pursuing an art career, but he eventually warmed up to the idea: “It was a bit rocky in the beginning because my dad was the kind of person who wanted me to be like a doctor… Or a lawyer… Or something like that. But he eventually came full circle when he realised that I wasn’t budging (laughs). Before he passed away, he would always tell family and friends, ‘My daughter is an artist!’. He would make sure that people knew that about me”.

Along with emotional support, Cydne’s parents enrolled her in after school art programmes and ensured she had the best equipment. “My parents would shell out money just to support my dream. The art supplies they bought me were artist-grade, and I appreciate that because I had no business owning any of them in high school (laughs)”.

After high school, Cydne went on to attend the University of The Bahamas where she studied fine art. But due to unforeseen circumstances, she couldn’t finish her degree. But this didn’t stop Cydne. Because during that period, Cydne would spend her time working as a graphic designer, and in between, she would volunteer in galleries and intern at studios. Even though the work was unpaid, she saw this as an opportunity to learn. “If someone offered me an opportunity to get into the art world, I would take it because I was learning something new. At the time I didn’t need the money – I was just happy to have the opportunity. If they fed me that was a plus (smiles) – I was just excited to be there”.

Beyond her family, Cydne cites the artist, Sonia Isaacs, her high school friends, her high school teachers and professors at college as people who encouraged her to pursue an art career: “So when I did my after school art programme, I did it with this Bahamian artist, and her name was Sonia Isaacs, and she was amazing – she was always encouraging me. She saw a lot of promise in what I was doing”.

In terms of that moment when Cydne felt like an artist, she stated it was just recently: “When I saw that question, I had to think about it, because I won’t even lie, it was fairly recently (laughs). When I had to leave college, I saw the degree as the stepping stone into the art world. So, when I didn’t have that stepping stone, I felt like it was going to take me a long time to enter the art world. But when I was a graphic designer, I was thinking of all these ideas, and I just kept encountering the art world. There was an artist named Jennifer, and she encouraged me, and was just like, ‘You should apply for this open call’. So I gave it a shot, did the work, and people really loved it, even more than I actually expected. But even around that time, I still didn’t feel like… An artist. Because before, if someone asked me if I was an artist, I would say, ‘allegedly’ (laughs). But it was 2020, last year, when I said, ‘Yeah! I’m an artist’. The pandemic took my full-time job, but I was fortunate because it gave me the time and space to do this, and when things settled, they asked me if I wanted to come back, and without any hesitation or fear, I said, ‘no’, because at that point I knew I was an artist. I was sustaining myself with it, and I had stuff lined up; I was doing stuff I never imagined; I was working with curators, and I was doing stuff internationally. So yeah (smiles)”.

When it comes to describing her artistic practice, Cydne’s answer was the following: “If you want the short answer, something quick, well, it’s mixed media collage. But, if we dive into that answer even deeper, well, I see the work as a combination of everything I have an interest in. The work also has an experimentation element to it since I play with different mediums and the figures I have. It also contains my experience as a graphic designer since there’s that aspect of Photoshop, manipulation and creating different layers. So yeah, it’s this serendipitous mashup which pays homage to my personal interests, the skills that I’ve learnt, my cultural environment and my physical environment (smiles)”.

It Takes A Village (created 2020) [Acrylic, fabric, crepe paper, ink, glitter, and collage on paper, 41 x 29.5 inch]

When I first saw the title of this piece, I immediately thought of the famous African proverb, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. I asked Cydne if she was influenced by this proverb, and she said she was: “So you’re right! I got the title from that proverb, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. Over here in The Bahamas, it was something I always heard growing up. I grew up in an extended family home. So in my yard, I had at least seven or eight adults. I had my parents, my two grannies, my three aunts, my two uncles, and then there were my sisters. The sister closest to my age was eight years older than me, so I was by far the youngest person. So growing up, I always had this idea and understanding that I had this village of people raising me”.

As someone who is West African, I can completely relate to what Cydne is saying. Because within both our cultures, aunties and uncles are like secondary mothers and fathers.

I should also state that this piece is a response to Hurricane Dorian. In 2020, Cydne created a series called Specimen, which explored the hurricane’s impact on The Bahamas. In early September 2019, Hurricane Dorian hit The Bahamas, and in its wake: destroyed homes, livelihoods and communities. The islands that were most affected were Abaco and Grand Bahama. “After the hurricane, I noticed that Abaconians and Grand Bahamians were no longer described by their islands – they were just called Dorian survivors. It was like… Their identity was taken away from them, and they were just seen as this other. And this was strange to me because this one event they had no control over, redefined them and it changed how others around the world viewed them, and how they view themselves”.

If we look beyond Hurricane Dorian and look at the range of natural disasters that have occurred in the Caribbean, we start to see a pattern, and that is the lack of international response from nations such as the US and the UK. I remember when the St. Vincent volcano erupted, the press coverage in the UK was so poor, to add to that, the amount of aid we provided was shocking. So when I see events such as these occur, it’s always a reminder that it’s not the big corporations or the governments who help first, it’s the local communities. “Most of the support you get in times of catastrophe come from your community. They don’t come from the likes of the government; they don’t come from these corporations. They come from people… People who are willing to take you in. These local communities in times of need form these small organisations that are almost like… Personalised organisations”.

With regards to what her art means to her personally, Cydne said it is through art she has found peace and refuge: “Art is like a haven to me – it has always provided me with a place of peace and refuge. People often meet me and say I come off as very quiet, or reserved, or chilled, and that’s fine, but my work is anything but that – it has a loud voice. It allows me to say more. Over here in The Bahamas, if I walk outside and I don’t cover… I dunno… Say my shoulders, people will stare at me because of all my tattoos – it’s not the norm. But again, with the art, I can be as bold as I want to be, and I can be in your face; I can do what I want, and I’m not limited to the real world because I can re-imagine it (smiles)”.

Within Volume III: The Maverick Series, I have asked all the artists this question, how is your work different to other artists? And here is Cydne’s answer: “I feel like my art is just… Really honest. And that’s not to say that others aren’t. When I say honest, I am speaking in terms of like… Culture, the materials that I have access to, what I’m going through… So subject matter. My art is like… A full reflection of who I am because it’s completely true to who I am. I mean… Someone out there could try and… Duplicate it, but it wouldn’t be the same. But I’d be lying by saying that I don’t look at other artists, or different spaces and not get any inspiration from certain things. Because when I see certain things, I’m like, ‘Okay, I like this!’, and I might mix that with something else. But I will never try to replicate it. Like I can see how other people might pair someone with me, say it’s for a dual show or even a group show. But I would still see it as that’s that artist, and this is me. I think you can absolutely appreciate another artist, but you don’t have to bite what they do. I think you just need to translate that inspiration into something else that is your own style and make sure you put your accent on it”.

Speaking of inspiration, when it comes to artists from the past and present who have inspired her, Cydne stated names such as Kennedy Wiley, Mickalene Thomas, John Cox, Sonia Issac, Stanley Burnside and the late Jackson Burnside. “I’ll be frank with you Chard, my inspiration never came from those old European dudes (laughs). It just didn’t. I was more inspired by people like Mickalene Thomas. When I saw her work for the first time in the Brooklyn Museum I was crying, they had to rush me out because they were closing, and I just wouldn’t leave (laughs). In terms of The Bahamas, my old professor, John Cox was also inspirational – I love his work. Sonia Issac is a very big one for me too – I just love her use of colour. People always celebrate me for my use of colour, but what inspired me to create work like that was Sonia Issac. Like seriously, her use of colours was what really did it for me. She understood the balance when it came to putting colours next to each other. I would see the work and learn so much – it was like learning a new language. And of course, Stan and Jackson Burnside, both of them did a lot of figurative work, and Jackson in particular did a lot of collage and mixed media work too. Lastly, I’m a huge fan of Kennedy Wiley, because thematically, I just like how he places black people in his work and just elevates them”.

Beyond art, Cydne’s inspirations come from her environment, conversations she has had with herself and family, and of course Junkanoo. “I think I look at my environment a lot to get inspiration – I look to see natural patterns. Also, being a graphic designer for so many years has exposed me to so many things too. As a graphic designer, I did a lot of branding, so I was creating logos, colour schemes and patterns. All of these different things allowed me to tell a story – build a layer. Also, as I said earlier, Junkanoo is a big inspiration. If you speak to any Bahamian creative, you will definitely hear how Junkanoo has impacted their craft”.

Cydne also expanded on the impact family has had on her work: “I’ve done a lot of work on my family, and that’s because they inspire me too. I’ve always had an interest in family photos, and now that I think about it, when I was a child, I would always flip through the family photos. There would be nothing new in them, but I would just flip through them all the time (laughs). When I was thinking about the series Queen Mudda, I knew I wanted to use family photos. Because like I said, growing up I had a lot of family around me, so I’ve always been interested in what happens when you bring family and art together”.

She Spells Her Cydne with a C {Study} (created 2019) [Digital Collage on hot press, 10 x 8 inch]

She Spells Her Cydne with a C (created 2019), is a reference to Cydne’s actual name, “My Cydne is not spelt the traditional way, and one thing my mom was always protective of was my name. When people would spell my name the traditional way, my mom would always correct them by saying, ‘No! She spells her Cydne with a C!’. It was things like this that affirmed who I was… My identity. My mom taught me to never change or conform to fit somebody else’s idea of what was correct or normal. She always wanted me to live in the truths I had”.

It was this confirmation of identity that Cydne wanted to convey in this piece, and it was through an old family photo of herself that she wanted to use to show her frame of mind as a child. “I had this old family photo of myself, and I really like the attitude in the photo. Like… Here is child Cydne just sipping on her bottle, and just looking back at the camera (smiles). She’s just sitting there, just minding her business. So when I saw that photo, I just liked its energy, and I just wanted to build on top of that”.

One thing you will notice in some of Cydne’s collages is the use of body parts from photographs. In Rebel Princess and Queen in Training, it was eyes, and in this piece, it’s a hand. Cydne decided to do this because she wanted to show the audience how she currently sees herself in other people and her younger self.

Another aspect I love about this piece is the child’s innocence. Even though it is based on a photo, Cydne does a phenomenal job of using her skill set as a collagist to further capture the child’s innocence. If we look beyond art and enter media, we rarely see black children being depicted as children. From such a young age, the language that is used to describe them is synonymous with teens and even fully grown adults, so as a viewer, it was nice to see a smiling, innocent and carefree child.

Cydne’s use of different materials is also something I have to applaud her for, and this is why I love collages because the artist has the creative freedom to bring whatever they want into the piece. “I’m drawn to collage because I love pulling… And taking… And merging things. You could even say my whole practice feels like a collage of different things. With collage, you are taking one element that existed in one space at a particular time and transforming it into something completely new – it’s like your stacking things and forming layers. If you look at the Caribbean, our culture is like a collage since it evolved from West African culture before colonisation, and if you look at the US with African Americans, you see the same thing. Our people were restricted from certain things, but we survived, and these new cultures developed”.

Solidarity (created 2020) [Acrylic, gold and silver foil, ink, glitter, and collage on paper 19.5 x 26 inch]

Solidarity (created 2020) is another piece inspired by Cydne’s older sisters, Lesley and Abby. Before the series, Queen Mudda, Cydne noticed the difference in upbringing between her and her siblings. To further understand and examine this difference, she created Solidarity. “Lesley and Abby grew up in a different environment, so because of that, they had a different upbringing compared to me. The two of them had seen certain things that maybe I never saw, and it’s the traumas they experienced that kind of bonds them in a way. I feel like siblings form this eternal bond when they experience trauma or joy together. There’s something that only those siblings will understand between each other, even if they go their separate ways”.

Another aspect I find interesting is the removal of the eyes in both figures. We are often told that the eyes are the window into the soul, and it’s true, our eyes show our emotions. So, by Cydne hiding this information, we as the audience are left to fill in the missing pieces of this puzzle – it’s open to our interpretation. Both figures are smiling in this studio portrait, but smiles can be deceptive.

With regards to her art’s message, Cydne states she wants the viewer to see her work as a celebration of her family and life itself: “I want my work to be seen as a celebration because I see it as very celebratory. It celebrates my family and elements we often discard or call mundane. I think we sometimes feel like we have to hide certain parts of ourselves. For example, on social media, you always want to present your best self. But it’s the elements we hide where I want to say, ‘No! That’s part of you too, that’s what makes you whole!’. When you’re able to confront those things you hide from, then at that moment, that’s a celebration. You’ve addressed it. It’s no longer this massive and painful thing. You’ve given justice to the injustice you’ve been dealt.  So I want to celebrate those traumas, I want to examine them too, and how we relate to those traumas”.

So, what can we expect from Cydne as of this year? Firstly, expect some prints from the artist. Exhibition/show wise, Cydne will be teaming up with TURN gallery and will be making an appearance at Untitled Art Fair, which will be in Miami Beach this year from November 30th 2021 to December 4th 2021.

In terms of her artistic practice, Cydne stated she wanted to visit a previous era: “I kind of want to take people back because when I first started making work, I made work that just primarily dealt with my image. After that, I started to introduce my family and how I related to them. I want to go back to doing more stuff that deals with myself and the dialogue I have with myself about certain things I’ve experienced; I want to talk about things I have overcome. Like don’t get me wrong, I really like the work I’ve been doing – it’s important. I love celebrating the people in my family, especially women, but I have some work in my sketchbook that I want to work on. I want to see what I can create now with my palette being more bright”.

In addition to this, Cydne wants to create some new pieces of work which explore her relationship with her late father: “I’ve been thinking, and I actually want to create some work which explores my dad as a person and that relationship. Because now that I’m older, I understand him more. I want to explore that understanding, and what that looks like from my perspective; I want to also look at how we cope with the paradoxes of pain and pleasure”.

Since the inception of memoirsbychard, I’ve always wanted to speak with a collagist, and to have the opportunity to end Volume III: The Maverick Series with a collagist such as the talented Cydne Jasmin Coleby is a true blessing. Her work has a vivid aesthetic that invites the viewer to learn more about her family and culture. Just like Ayobola, and in fact, all the artists of this volume, their stories have just begun. Is Cydne a maverick? Absolutely! So make sure you visit her website www.cydnejasmincoleby.com, and you follow her on Instagram @cydoodles.

“My work is an amalgamation of everything that I’ve learnt over the years, everything I have experienced – it contains my story and others”. 

With every Memoir X, I always try to examine a big topic. In Volume I, it was my relationship with death. In Volume II, it was me looking at the Black Lives Matter movement through the lens of the black community, and in Volume III: The Maverick Series, I wanted to ask the art world, where are the seats for black artists, and if there aren’t any seats should they just form our own table? There’s a lot of change that needs to happen in the art world. The art world will always be reluctant to change, but they should embrace it, because black artists are going nowhere. 10 years can pass or even 100 years, black artists will always continue to tell their story through the arts.

That’s what make my life complete,
knowing that it’s a higher being,
a higher power, knowing that these people done paved they way.
You know, our great-great-grandfathers and grandmothers that came here,
they found some kind of way to make the rhythm.
You know, and they kept rhythm, no matter what.
Now, we come here as slaves, but we going out as royalty,
and able to show that we are truly the chosen ones.

Closing: The Chosen Ones (2016) by Solange – A Seat at the Table

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