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Queer Artists in Their Own Words: Miatta Kawinzi Carries a Heart of Hope

LGBTQ Pride Month is now. Every day in June, we are celebrating the community by featuring one queer artist and letting them speak for themselves.

The month of June is a time to celebrate the LGBTQ community and reflect on the advances of queer people to strengthen civil liberties around the world, even in a moment of great political uncertainty. It’s also a good opportunity to spotlight the richness and diversity of culture we have within the community. Hyperallergic is commemorating Pride Month by featuring one contemporary queer artist per day on the website and letting them speak for themselves. Click here to participate.

Miatta Kawinzi with her installation “breath/string/body” at the Cité internationale des arts in Paris (2018) (image courtesy the artist)

Miatta Kawinzi

Age: 32

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Artistic Medium: Video, sound, sculpture, performance, and installation

Who are you and what do you do?

I am a multidisciplinary artist, writer, an educator. Born in Nashville, Tennessee to a Liberian mother and Kenyan father and now based in Brooklyn, I grew up moving through various geographic, cultural, and linguistic spaces, which informs my work and my interest in hybridity and layered imagery and content. I work with images, objects, sound, space, the body, and language to explore practices of reimagining the self, identity, and culture through abstraction and poetics. I am invested in exploring and questioning themes of selfhood, diaspora, and belonging. In recent work, I trace performative and experimental impulse by abstracting the body through sculptural sound and video installation. My work proposes techniques of experimentation as a means to imagine the body, language, social structures, and social relationships differently.

What are the top three greatest influences on your work?

Currently, string theory (always striving for harmony), African diasporic culture (the treasure trove is endless!), and walking (a praxis to witness and understand the world).

Describe your coffee order.

Dark roast with raw honey.

What is your greatest accomplishment?

Still carrying a heart of hope in the face of ongoing heaviness.

What constitutes a perfect day?

Thinking, making, and connecting without anxiety of scarcity.

What would your superpower be if you had one?

To fly.

Tell us a lie about yourself.

I have a trust fund!

What is one question you wish somebody would ask about your work?

What do you need to keep this going?

What is the greatest threat to humanity?

As Octavia Butler expounded upon: the drive for hierarchy.

What did you make when you first started making art?

Elaborate fantasy stories on floppy disks in elementary school, strange looping drawings with disembodied heads and layered eyes, pointillist landscapes imagining an Elsewhere.

Do you prefer spilling the tea or throwing shade?

Throwing shade but spoken sweetly, for everyone is doing their best. I hope!

What is your all-time favorite work of art?

Senga Nengudi’s R.S.V.P. series. The stretch. The strain. The resilience.

What are your plans for pride month?

Letting my feet catch up to my body after many months of constant movement. Reconnecting with folks over home-cooked meals. Making our own celebrations.

What is the future of queerness?

Transcending time, transcending space.

Back in my day…

We chased lightning bugs and made up worlds in the woods.

Greatest queer icon of the internet: Babadook, Momo, or a pervading sense of existential angst?

A pervading sense of existential angst.

Is there enough support for queer artists where you live?

Nope, especially not for folks from low-income backgrounds, who are dark-skinned, who do not fit the glossy, mainstream-peddled mode.

How do you stay cool during the summer?

Following the water.

“Queer Artists in Their Own Words” is an ongoing feature happening every day in the month of June. For prior posts in the series, please click here.

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