Meet Onajide Shabaka: artist, interdisciplinary cultural practitioner, represented by Emerson Dorsch Gallery (Miami)
December 29, 2020
We had the good fortune of connecting with Onajide Shabaka and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Onajide, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
Like many artists I have worked full-time and part-time jobs while also making art, before and after being a student. In order to do the various jobs with efficiency and professionalism I had to learn to be organized early in life. It helped that I learned a lot of that from my parents as we children had weekly tasks and school work to complete. Now that I am solely active with my art practice I still have to be concerned about balancing the various activities of my life. Around 2007 I decided that I was going too long of a day. I was working on a computer when it’s dark out and it becomes difficult to know the exact time of the day in that case. I had a “smart phone” and set an alarm to remind me of the desire to get a full night’s sleep, and starting off each day wide awake and ready to go, after breakfast. I’ve worked jobs in the late afternoon to after midnight, and midnight to past sunrise, so I’ve experienced plenty of days short on sleep. At the present time I think I’ve gotten myself in a good place with life balance. I work on my art practice, including research time, do workouts 3-5 times a week for 30-45 min., take time to cook (which I’ve been doing since I was 8 years old), and get a good night’s rest. I hope this is the formula for longevity because I’m feeling great every day!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My art practice is focused primarily on the ethnobotanical, geological, archeological, historical and biographical themes related to the African Diaspora and Native American cultures. Through a well developed research based walking practice he I has have explored the environment and its biology allowing site specific histories and nature to reveal the untold historical narratives from the past in the form of film, photography, sculpture, and mixed media works on paper. Over the past several years he I has have followed the trail of seeds and rice cultivation from the Atlantic slave trafficking era, to the present day landscapes of Suriname and coastal Georgia (part of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Corridor). The art works derived from this research has been based on the various people, plants, and animals encountered in those specific ecological locations.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Although we have many cultural institutions to visit locally, I would prefer to visit the various parks and preserves set aside to wildlife and forestry preservation: Everglades, Loxahatchee River area, Big Cypress, Indian River Lagoon or kayaking up some waterway
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator (Miami) The Ellies Grant – Oolite Arts (Miami) Wavemaker Grant – Locust Projects (Miami) Knight Foundation Emerson Dorsch Gallery (Miami)
All photo credits: Onajide Shabaka