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How Artist Jamilla Okubo Would Spend A Perfect Day In D.C.

In D.C. Dream Day, we ask our favorite people in the area to tell us how they would spend a perfect day in the District.

Artist Jamilla Okubo is using a combination of painting, textile design, fashion and storytelling to explore the complexity of her American, Kenyan and Trinidadian roots. In 2017, a year after graduating from Parsons School of Design, she was commissioned by Dior to design three bags for the Dior Lady Art #2 collection. Over the next few years, she designed patterns for Pyer Moss’s 2019 collection, created a mural as part of Facebook’s artist-in-residence program and illustrated an array of books. Last spring, Okubo presented her second solo exhibition, “I Do Not Come to You as a Myth, I Come to You as a Reality,” at Mehari Sequar Gallery on H Street NE.

“I came across this piece by bell hooks called the ‘Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectator’ and I was really interested in how she was talking about Black women reclaiming their gaze,” she says. “That kind of idea stuck with me. I was just questioning, how do I visually showcase Black women reclaiming their gaze?”

She tackled this question with powerful faceless portraiture of Black women in various environments, with colorful backdrops and textured patterns. They’re meditative. “I’m inspired by Black culture, my cultural heritage, the food, music, traditions, and ways of doing things,” she says. “Being able to travel and even learn about different African cultures shows you how our ways of living overlap.”

Okubo credits the expansion of her career to mentors including Peggy Cooper Cafritz, co-founder of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, where Okobo attended high school, as well as fellow artists Kimberly Trowbridge, Jordann Wine and Stan Squirewell. She hopes to take her work to a global audience. “It’s something I have to think about further because when my work is in a different setting, what do I want to say to people who may not be familiar with Black culture or Black heritage?” she says. “How do I deliver the message in a way that’s easy to understand? Not that it should be easy, but respectfully ‘understand.’”

Okubo lives in upper Northwest but is spending the beginning of the year exploring Kenya with close friends and drawing inspiration for her next exhibition, which is slated for November. Her ideal day in D.C. is spent working on one of her paintings, visiting her favorite museum with friends and closing the evening on the dance floor….

Click here for full article. (Washington Post)


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