The Glory of the Black Figure
I spent my Sunday morning with two remarkable women. Your mother’s old school hits played in the background while we drank Fruit Sangria tea and mused over life, goals and the need for Black art and awareness. I was there to cover the artwork of Imani Shanklin Roberts, but instead felt like I was catching up with old girlfriends. Both Imani Roberts and Ayanna Long, her publicist, continued the tradition of Sacred Sundays.
While there, I couldn’t help but notice the tattoo of Africa on Imani’s back. This particular detail was telling of her character and most definitely of her artwork. It set the stage for the visit to say the least. Wielding two degrees in art education and the imagination and intelligence of someone who taught the classes herself, Imani proved to be a manifestation of her studies.
She also waxed poetic. When asked what the overall message of her work is, she stated that she wanted to communicate the glory of the Black figure. Taken aback, it was difficult to make amends with the fact that my visit was ultimately going to come to an end. Imani continued nonetheless. She said her goal is to master melanin and skin and convey us in our fullest form. The halos she chose to adorn the subjects in her Miseducation collection backed up her promise to convey strength, power and positivity.
We discussed two of her collections: An Ode to Her and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. In An Ode to Her, Imani explored topics that she’s combatted with personally. Producing work that she felt connected to, she traversed a journey where she found that Black girls have a similar storyline. In operating within her own psyche, she drew strength in the fact that despite any cultural or class differences, there’s a running theme present in the life of Black girls. In The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Imani was approached by a New York based art collective to create a visual exploration of the famed 1998 album. Calling it a true synopsis of a 20 something year old’s love story, Imani perfectly conveys the love and pain that Hill intones.
As is common with most artists, Imani's primary goal is to continue creating authentically. It seemed her fear was to be pressured. Instead, she shares that she wants to create a healing space, a space of self-discovery and a space for community with her art. Uncontrolled it seems as though Imani's work is exceptional--so I, too, prefer the "pressure free" version of her authenticity.
Find Imani Shanklin Roberts artwork on her website: imaniniasr.com
Ruth Jean-Marie is a recent graduate of New York University where she received her Master’s of Science degree in Global Affairs with a concentration in human rights and international law. Dedicating her life to the alleviation of misery around the world, her greatest goal is to become a superhero. Her interests include fashion, equality for women and Black people--that real equality, not the surface level stuff, traveling around the world and writing. She's excited about life and intends on living it. She also has a mild obsession with shoes, shopping and sharing her opinion. You'll hear all about it.