The Kent State University Visual Arts Center invited guest speaker Neka Kai to its First Friday Lecture Series on January 20th.
Nneka Kai is a multidisciplinary artist and independent researcher who focuses on textiles using hair materials to create works through abstraction in the field of contemporary art. In her lecture on her first Friday, she explained what she meant by her own work, Hair as Practice.
“‘Hair as Praxis’ doesn’t just think of hair as a theory, for me this practice is a theory in real time,” Kai said.
Kai continues that hair is “fluid, constantly changing and evolving.” idea. ” It’s the ‘thinking of blackness’. She intimately presents this idea through her work. Examples include “mama’s vessel” and “mama’s cornrows”..
Not only has Kai explored the modern world to kick off identity conversations, but other famous black artists such as Lorna Simpson and Sonya Clark have explored it over the years.
“We still speak the same language,” Kai said. “This is about understanding the identity of the black female body that drives us. It’s what keeps the conversation going into the future.”
Assistant Art Professor John Paul Morabito also notes Kai’s work and what she painted.
“She’s under the next generation of Sonya Clarke,” Morabito said. “She’s creating a space for culture [as] Black art within the Black community has been constantly changing and has played an important role. ”
When police brutality became public knowledge in 2020, Kai wanted to make a statement and contribute to the fight.
On the other hand. That’s when the performance “Ode I: In the Thick of it” was born.
Kai performed an interpretive act at the site where the building stood before it was demolished in Atlanta, Georgia. The performance was “a radical act of showing love”.
“History keeps letting us down,” Kai said. By using fiction, Kai hoped to help “reimagine the future” of society as a whole.
Her work creates a more personal connection with the audience to allow for “dialogue, questioning and intelligent conversation.” One of her students in particular who influenced her was Olivia Newsom, her second year majoring in zoology.
“By sharing each other’s cultures, we get to know each other and where we come from,” Newsom said. “This helps us develop new traditions, new ideals and create a sense of community.”
Kai will continue to talk about black culture and deepen our understanding of hair by working to ‘evoke the action behind it’ because ‘hair connects everyone’.
“I’m an artist,” Kai said. “make [art] eternally. I don’t tie myself up i am free. “
Danielle Stelhe is a reporter.contact her [email protected]