Mguni uses text, found objects, flowers, video, and print media to carve out space for Black presence and to offer affirmation in a world that continues its violent attempts to erase, devalue, and disappear Black people.
The warm color of gomphrena fills the room and we are invited into a space of reflection upon entering Bekezela Mguni’s installation. Found and collaged tin, surrounding images of the artist held in tenderness by her mother and father reflecting softness, reverence, and connection. Steel sheets cut to form three adinkra symbols that adorn the wall, imbued with the energy of visual proverbs. Mguni uses text, found objects, flowers, video, and print media to carve out space for Black presence and to offer affirmation in a world that continues its violent attempts to erase, devalue, and disappear Black people.
Thank you to Danny Bracken and the Mattress Factory team for all your help and support. Thank you, Ben Grubb, John Walter of Salvation, Artist Image Resource team including Feliks Pyron, Bob Beckman, and Quaishawn Whitlock. Thank you BOOM Concepts. Thank you, Toni McClendon, for your generosity of spirit. Thank you to the Mattress Factory for supporting artists in the way you do. Your patience and support have been invaluable. Thanks to all of the artists in this show for all you have shared. Thank you Tavia LaFollette for being an incredible curator, and for believing in the transformative power of art. Thanks to my mother and father for your love. And thank you to my ancestors who delight in my joy.
I come from a holy place. I offer an affirmation and invitation to space, to take time to reflect on where we are in our lives, where we’ve come from, and who has poured into our journeys. Over the course of our lifetimes, we receive so many messages that dehumanize and distort the realities of how we truly see ourselves. I believe our divine right to wholeness and sovereignty is more powerful than any other political message that has been wielded to shrink, exploit, or harm us in any way. It is the beauty of Black people and the storytelling of Black women and Black queer, Trans, and gender-expansive people that have changed my life and for that I give thanks. My mother’s womb. My great-grandmother’s house on Todd Street in San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago, twenty-character building Pittsburgh winters and 21 glorious springs bring me here. This room is a conjure collage of pieces of this iteration of my journey with many hands, hearts, and voices.
Bekezela Mguni is a queer Trinidadian artist, librarian, birth worker and educator. She is the founder of the Black Unicorn Library and Archives Project, a Black feminist community library. Bekezela is a member of BOOM Concepts, a community space and gallery dedicated to supporting artists and creative entrepreneurs, and serves as the Education Program Director at Dreams of Hope for queer youth arts and leadership.