The arts…what a powerful concept to ponder. Dance…music…sculptures…architecture…science—yes… science. Our ancestors’ keen, vast and ingenious mastery of the sciences—metaphysics, astrology, mathematics, to name a few—from Imhotep to Lady Peseshet… Dr. Ben Carson to Ma’a Bowman, illumine and magnify one very pronounced truth. We, African peoples, have an intrinsic propensity--from our spiritually formatted genetic legacy-- to hear, know and innerstand the multifaceted ways in which art expresses elements of our Divine Legacy. In spite of systems created to disenfranchise, dehumanize and annihilate us, the spirit of our proclivity to traverse ALL challenges, is persistent and pervasive through our art. We are the very breadth of our ancestors’ mastery, for their paramount intent functions as the core of our ingenuity as artists.
We are all artists. The question however is, what inspires you to create? What catalyzes and propels you to study, research, question, and acquire information? What is the gravitational substance you, the artist, possess, that enables you to exemplify an aptitude of artistic creativity? How does that artistic manifestation grandiosely resonate within the hearts, minds and spirits of all persons inhabiting this fertile, viable, enriching and nourishing earth?
African persons throughout the world are like planets that give birth to immeasurable galaxies of viable procreating entities of light. In this lyrical collage, I am paying tribute to the womb—the loving, healing, birthing, homeostatic womb of African women artists—their challenges, their art, but more importantly, the wisdom embedded in their journeys…the wisdom within their cardiac rhythm, the wisdom of the spirit molecules of oxygenation that fuel their cerebral hemispheres, the sage-like wisdom that stimulates the pineal gland that clairvoyantly taps into their ancestral spheres…motivating them to persevere.
African women artists—Tamara Tunie, Ntozake Shange, Dr. Glory Van Scott, Carol Maillard, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, and the legendary Ruby Dee, are multifaceted artists with a collective purpose. The sacred essence of their divine wombman-hood has led them up the path as artists whose mission has been to restore the true identities of African women. Their voice, their presence in the global media, their fervor to exterminate stereotypes, has served as an ensemble that strive to keep us connected to our roots. The activism entrenched in their artistic contributions, continues to perpetuate the fortitude of our ancestral legacy. As a wombman of African origin, seeing representations of and studying the art of women who exude the sacred essence of my ancestral mothers, has nurtured, protected, and heightened my sense of self…my identity as a proud yet humble, brilliant and pioneering wombman. They redeemed, resurrected and revolutionized African beauty, African Dance, African thought, African literature, African values and principles through their creative arts. In spite of the multitude of obstacles these phenomenal women have endured and continue to surpass, they are steadfast as uncompromising vessels of transformation and ascension—using their art to reinforce that we should never forget the greatness of who we are and from whom and where we came.
In this intimate space at the Riverside Theatre in Harlem, the energy of this historic moment created a fusion of levitation beneath the soles of my feet as each sister artist expressed the relationship they shared with each powerful art form they have mastered. Fortunately, despite several prejudices, their resilience and undeniable artistic power has successfully been exposed in mainstream media. Legendary artist—actress, poet, playwright, screenwriter, journalist, and activist--Ruby Dee passionately and emphatically shared with us, as she does with such great poise, why art is the key to our liberation. She emphatically stated, “is there any greater power than it is to BE? We have something we don’t quite yet know how to use—we come from that ultimate power! Demons came in, subverted our attention—we forgot who we were—that we are somebody.” Divine. “The power is in each of us. We started feeling our greatness instead of knowing WHY we were! We are the stabilizers of the nation;” we are here “to balance” the scales from unrighteousness to righteousness. Enthralling are mama Ruby Dee’s words because this wombman has lived through so many generations as an African in America where she, like we, have been subjugated by the “Demons” of masterful deviation. Nevertheless, how can I resoundingly put forth the beaming radiance and joy my heart feels knowing our propensity to withstand so much grief, strife, insanity, disruption, corruption, demolition and still create the most brilliant, the most magnificent and astonishing art forms to grace existence?
Ntozake Shange, playwright, poet, author of the renowned Choreopoem For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf explains that “struggle itself is the fulcrum of art—what you have to write about…” Sister Ntozake’s sentiments ring and reverberate out of the primordial waters of Nu because writing has been and will forever be my saving grace…from despondency, neurological dysfunctions, physiological diseases, the faith of Spirit to supersede the visage of a world of disillusionment. Writing is the tool I use to communicate with my higher self. The initial frenetic, neurotic, and exasperating symptoms I experience from discomfort, angst, and past traumas, transform my being into a state of stillness—I am able to deeply process my emotions, their origin, the stimuli, and profoundly resolve any crisis through my writing and deeply spiritual communion with the spirit world. Writing is also expansive; I get to dive in to the most imaginative recesses of the universe within my mind. It’s the due process that we all should, in one aspect or another, partake in.
Ma’at’s symbol is a balance scale. Whenever your equilibrium is out of order, you must consider utilizing a process that is effective and builds efficiency in order to deflect the potential for reacting in the same counterintuitive mannerisms to future situations—mannerisms that hinder and alter your progression to heightened spiritual ascension. This mastery exemplifies the artist. As sister Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, founder, artistic director, dancer and choreographer of Urban Bush Women, stated, “ when you fall down, you get up, learn how to fall, how to recover, and keep connected to the thing that’s driving you. Focus on your work; don’t get bitter or stuck ‘cause [your] creativity will [go] down…LISTEN…and keep going forward.” Sister Ntozake Shange further stated, “Don’t let yourself scare yourself…don’t be afraid to [express] the ugly” because you “fear what [you] have revealed about [yourself]. Be aware…you have power over fear.” You are in “control.” Finally, Dr. Glory Van Scott—producer, dancer, performer, educator and civic activist—fervently explicated, “Whatever I’m doing, I can face it! Work on it. Make perfection by your work” for “when you sit and become quiet within” yourself “ answers come. It’s all about the BREATH and standing your ground.” We must stand our ground and “keep courage high, our faith strong because the Most High “dwells within us AS US” echoed Carol Maillard—Actress, Singer, Songwriter of Sweet Honey in the Rock. Sitting in that audience, a powerful mystical force charged through the air and into me. I felt like the words of each of those prominent women were slingshots of Ra’s particles directly into the souls of every person in attendance. We need to be reminded to remember…to remember who we are from who we were because only then will we truly be able to move forward. As actress, Tamara Tunie stated, when you are “creating and bringing to a revelation” different aspects of your art which is your SELF… “it never gets stale.” When you are willing to “step out of your comfort zone” you will finally acknowledge…we, African peoples, are the finest art—our humility, compassion, formidability, wisdom…our Ma’atian ways… are the highest expressions of innovative, artistic invention.