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“Blackness is beautifully nuanced,” said Mahader Tesfai, an Eritrean artist whose work will be featured at the art exhibit “Bliggity Black: Blacker Than Black” at the MultiCultural Center until March 21.
The exhibit, which includes a combination of pastel, paint and ink on canvas and wood, reflects Tesfai’s views as a Black man living in America, as well as the many identities of Black individuals around the world.
According to Tesfai, the exhibit features a diverse collection of overlapping faces.
“These pieces are playing with the idea of individual and shared identity,” Tesfai said. “In one drawing, all three characters might be sharing eyes, with the central character sharing both eyes.”
Tesfai said his drawings of overlapping faces were inspired by “the multiple identities that exist in one person as well as the interconnectedness between people,” yet Tesfai’s pieces also are meant to combat contemporary social stereotypes.
“As a Black man in the United States, I am oftentimes perceived and treated as a threat with multiple negative tropes attached to me,” Tesfai said. “These paintings are a rejection of one-dimensional views of Blackness that are prevalent in the world.”
Tesfai also said he finds his artistic inspiration primarily in the African traditionalist and modernist art forms, although he does not limit himself to these. He derives bits and pieces of influence from artists such as Bearden, Basquiat, William H. Johnson and Ibrahim El-Salahi.
“Blackness is beautifully nuanced, colorful, multi-dimensional, overlapping, interconnected and its history is rooted in love and struggle,” Tesfai said. “That’s what this show means to me.”
Tesfai’s work touches on the lives of individuals of African descent from all around the world. Certain paintings represent particular people in his life, while other pieces, according to Tesfai, “represent people in diaspora and are referencing communities throughout the world and throughout time that are descended from Africa.”
The MCC will hold an opening reception for “Blacker Than Black” this coming Thursday at at 6:30 p.m.