What a year it’s been! Shani’s artwork was displayed from Italy to Harvard, she lived in Spain for a month and traveled to Africa twice, and community conversations about the work went from public stages to the pages of Aperture Magazine. As we look back to move forward, we’re grateful for the lessons learned in 2018 and looking forward to the work we’ll collectively create in 2019.
Manifesta Biennial- Palermo, Italy
In 2018 Shani debuted eight collages and an accompanying soundscape in her first international Biennial! “Manifesta is the European Nomadic Biennial, held in a different host city every two years. It is a major international art event, attracting visitors from all over the world. Manifesta is the go-to place for discovering emerging artists, thought provoking ideas, new artworks especially commissioned for the event, and creative experiences in dialogue with spectacular locations of each host city.”
The work, which was part of a show that rewrote the narrative of Black portraiture in European art, was accompanied by a talk she delivered in Palermo, Italy about her artistic practice.
New Solo Exhibition
Another highlight of the year was having her photography, collage and film featured in Portals, a solo exhibition curated by Senior Curator of MoCAD and co-founder of ARTNOIR Larry Ossei-Mensah. This exhibition drew on Shani’s years of international travel to nearly 50 countries. It was accompanied by a series of public events, featuring an all star roster of guest speakers and performers including author and NYT photography critic Teju Cole, Queens Museum president Laura Raicovich, Broadway singer Alicia Hall Moran and celebrated Random House One World editor Chris Jackson.
Six of Shani’s collages were included in Harvard’s Cooper Gallery spring exhibition, ReSignifications. The show was originally presented in 2015 at New York University’s Villa La Pietra in Florence, Italy as part of “Black Portraiture[s] II: Imaging the Black Body and Re-Staging Histories.” She traveled to Cambridge for the opening.
Aperture published an article about Shani’s art and travel with author and photographer Teju Cole, curator Larry Ossei-Mensah, and writer and art worker Laura Raicovich. As the intro states, “what follows is an edited excerpt of this conversation that addresses mobility and its implications, particularly for black bodies in our times, and the meaning of images produced by Cole and Jamila. Both, in their diaristic approach to photography, contend with how constructions of home, borders, and nationality, among other intensely felt notions, are largely figments of imagination that, while powerfully experienced, are equally slippery when parsed. Further, Jamila and Cole both confront subjective and objective visibility of themselves as photographers, seers, and artists.” Click here to read the full article.
Honoring Poetry & Performance
This year Shani celebrated the remarkable life of the writer Ntozake Shange by performing an excerpt of her seminal work For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf. She began in poetry, so she was grateful for the opportunity to pay tribute to her by revisiting her artistic foundation.
She was also so thankful for the opportunity to honor her beloved Uncle John. An award winning playwright and author, he’s devoted his entire life to using his art in support of freedom, justice and the liberation of Black people– as the co-founder of the Free Southern Theater, a field secretary for SNCC and the founder of Junebug Productions. He is currently fighting dementia.Two weeks ago, the family created an opportunity for the community to contribute to his care. It has already raised over $20,000! What a joy to be able to give him his flowers while he’s here to enjoy them. Thanks to every person who has written beautiful notes and donated during this season of giving. You have gotten us over 2/3rds of the way to our goal in just a matter of days. If you’d like to contribute, click here.
This year Shani traveled to Africa twice and visited five countries in three months: Italy, Spain, Malta, Tunisia and Morocco. She got to have wonderful adventures, including skydiving in Spain while living there for a month with Unsettled, studying Dali, and enjoying a bucket list trip to the blue town of Chefchouen. Images she made over the course of her travels are featured on her Instagram account. Follow her there for a peek into her visual diary as she moves throughout the world!
Facilitating Community Conversations
In 2018 Shani continued her work addressing inequity and catalyzing cultural change. Stand out moments were moderating a conversation of dancers, musicians and choreographers with Rashida Bumbray and Dancing While Black at the University of Virginia, & leading a conversation about art and justice at the Aperture Foundation’s Prison Nation opening. Much more to come on this front in the new year!