Arena for Contemporary African, African-American and Caribbean Art

Author: Sasha Dees

text: email

Deborah Jack


“The resonance of traumatic historical events in my personal and cultural memory is at the very core of my work. I see the work as the result of my investigation of the tension that exists in spaces that are at once sites of trauma and sites of healing. I am intrigued by concept of the “re-memory” (renewed or remembered memory), memory as a trigger and a means for exploring the dismembering of the histories, cultures, traditions, families, and personal memories of my community/self. My work seeks to articulate an historical and cultural injury in a way that tries to avoid and subvert images of suffering and victim-hood that have been used as visual hot buttons in the past. I am interested in seducing the eye by using the scenic aspects of landscape and the potential for the betrayal that can come from closer examination of these seemingly “innocent” and “untouched” places/bodies.” – Deborah Jack.

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Sanford Biggers


Sanford Biggers’ works integrate film/video, installation, sculpture, drawing, original music and performance.  He intentionally complicates issues such as hip hop, Buddhism, politics, identity and art history in order to offer new perspectives and associations for established symbols.  Through a multi-disciplinary formal process, and an equally syncretic creative approach, he makes works or ‘vignettes’ that are as aesthetically pleasing as they are conceptual. I got to know Biggers through a sort of patchwork of conversations as I interacted with him and his work over the years.

Writes Sasha Dees.

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Nicole Awai



“In my early teens, my mother didn’t allow me to wear makeup. Her way of negotiating that was to allow me to wear nail polish. The nail polish was more than an accessory, it was a creative outlet and it became an expression of my identity. In 2002 when I realized that I was still in possession of a bottle of nail polish that I had since I was 15 years old, I started to think about the ways in which women use cosmetics as a means of personal codification. I originally made paintings in which I used and arranged the nail polish colors into a map legend of sorts and called it ‘The Sensation Code’. The code would imply further possible narrative directions in the work. I was plaing with language, with the viewer’s expectation for familiar canons – Awai spreads her fingers wide open looking at her transparent flesh/pinky colored polished nails – and sometimes a nail polish name would start off an idea for a work or,  when seeing a name on a bottle, one of the ideas that I am working on would come to mind and it would become part of it.”

Sasha Dees in conversation with Trini-American Nicole Awai.


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Leonardo Benzant Afrosupernatural Combat


“Becoming an adult I had different experiences and encounters that made me start opening up for my ancestry. It was the beginning of what probably will be a life long research into my ancestry and African Diasporic culture. I read many books, essays, and articles, listened to music, went to performances, lectures and met with different people that became short and long term mentors, a continuous learning curve. Finding Palo and its community felt like I came home, it made sense to me, it gave me freedom.  Palo fills me with a positive energy and empowers me to be who I am.”

Sasha Dees interviews the New York based artist Leonardo Benzant.


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