ARTS | The Black Woman is God

There have been few evenings where I have experienced as powerful a force of love and beauty as the opening night of The Black Woman is God. The energy was euphoric, vibrant, and it felt as though all of time existed in that space.

There’s a long and winding tale of how I found out about The Black Woman is God that involves an Instagram search for local artists and a mysterious First Friday experience. I have Veuxdo Child to thank for most of the information that lead me to this, and a few others, but I’ll tell that story, later.

Opening night was Thursday July 7th, doors at 6 and program at 6:30, and I was intent on getting there on time, hoping to meet Karen Seneferu, Oakland artist and native, the curator and woman behind the movement.

As I neared SOMArts, the exhibit venue, I could hear music starting to play. It was nearly 6:30, and I picked up the pace. My hopes of meeting Karen left me the instant I walked in and met a sea of people all trying to fit into the exhibit hall. But I was too thrilled with what was about to happen to feel disappointed.

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SOMArts, The Black Woman is God | photo by Stephanie Podue

As soon as I moved in, someone called people forward to view the outdoor stage, visible and accessible through the open bay door. We turned to watch and were met with poetry, chanting, and a song. This was the beginning of two hours of music, dancing, and ceremony to follow. The place was electric.

The performances took place throughout the exhibit hall, the sights and sounds illuminating the hidden histories of ancestors and grandparents, parents, and those present. Praises in the form of chants and songs were lifted to the beauty and resilience of black women throughout existence, through colonization, post-colonial, today, and tomorrow. It was vulnerable, beautiful, powerful, and you could feel weight laid and lifted up, as pain and glory intermingled.

The freedom and beauty in the movement of the dancers, the sounds of the musicians on ancient and modern instruments, took our breath away; space and divinity were reclaimed.

Around 8:30, the hall was handed back to the paintings and sculptures that adorned it, and we meandered through the curated selection of artwork from local black women, while Seneferu’s film, Hotcomb: the Masquerade, played on an angled wall, silently speaking to viewers.

All of the energy and beauty of the opening ceremony is found on the walls and pedestals of the exhibit hall. Sculptures of masks representing recent murder victims of police violence, paintings and drawings on varying canvases, portraits that celebrate black beauty to those that call out the reality of white power built on black lives, and alters to the strength and divinity of the black woman, all tell an incredible story, one that continues to unfold.

The show runs from now until August 17th at SOMArts in San Francisco, CA.

The full list of artists can be found, here.

I hope you go and see it for yourself.

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