As Black Lives Matter saw an increase in media coverage over the past year, Black creators have taken to art to celebrate their race and speak out against racial oppression.
In honor of Black History Month and Black Lives Matter, Auburn University Black Graduate and Professional Student Association held an artwork contest on Feb. 5. The topic of the contest was Black Liberation, Joy and Resiliency.
Nylah Bluiett, first place winner and freshman in apparel design, said she is glad her artwork is apart of this conversation on confronting racial issues.
“I think that [Black Lives Matter] is just amplifying the voices of those who have been silenced for a long time,” she said.
Bluiett’s piece “La Femme” was focused on celebrating West African culture and the beauty of Black women.
“I really just was inspired to do something that showed off African culture and that’s what I was trying to exemplify with the headscarf and just all the beautiful patterns and colors,” she said.
The woman in her work is one of her best friends who wears a lot of African garbs. Bluiett said she was inspired by both her friend’s fashion style and the clothing of African culture.
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She started “La Femme” as an advanced placement art project with her concentration in fashion illustration through different cultures. Bluiett said she looked at different patterns as inspiration for her piece and kept certain motifs that mimicked West African culture, but ultimately, she created her own pattern.
For the contest, she finished and refined the piece before submitting it. She said with the portrait being done in pen she chose to do the fabrics in watercolor to create a more vibrant artwork.
With the wide range of issues being discussed with BLM, she said she made the title “The Woman” to keep the subject’s identity vague in order to signify Black women as a whole rather than single in on an individual’s experience or expression.
“I just wanted to show the beauty and simplicity of a Black woman,” Bluiett said.
Sharisma Bell, second place winner and master’s student in higher education, said she feels BLM is allowing for the visibility and recognition of historic and modern racism.
“For so long we felt like we didn’t matter or were overlooked or were put down or segregated or hanged and everything just because of the color of our skin,” she said. “How can someone be upset because we were born Black? That blows my mind every day.”
Bell said most of her works highlight Black women.
“I am a Black woman,” Bell said. “I love painting Black women. I love putting Black women in all types of facets of life, and usually each Black woman I draw there’s just something unique about her, whether that’s hair or lips or something she is doing.”
In her artwork, Bell said she likes to write words or messages on the painting. For this piece, four letters were written on the left-hand side: p-r-a-y.
“I love to pray,” she said. “I pray every day: morning, noon, night, walking, watching TV. Whenever I want to talk to God I just pray.”
Bell said she believes prayer can be a vital part of working through the Black struggle, specifically among those enslaved throughout history.
Her piece was titled “Prayer Is Freedom and Joy.” Bell said much of that is because prayer allows her to release anxiety, to re-center herself and find joy in knowing her prayers give her freedom.
“Just continue to pray, and when you open your eyes everything will be OK,” she said.
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