Meet The Black Creatives Inspiring Black Joy Through Art
The Creative: Bukunmi Grace (Photography)
How I Reclaim Joy Through My Art:
At the end of last year, I felt as if I was entering a dissociative state, so I chose to reanalyze my motives for creating by revisiting the origin of one of my favorite portraits. I went back to South Africa to recall the magnitude of sacrifices that have paved the way to my creative freedom. I landed first in Johannesburg, and as I would visit designers, artisans and early collaborators, I would walk away incredibly inspired by their designs, visions and — most importantly — their perseverance. Our casual conversations resulted in valuable collaborative productions that brought joy into the lives and work of everyone involved, even up to this present time. For me, reclaiming my joy in art has always been by identifying that joy in the stories of others but also in admonishing my own joy.
hy Finding Black Joy Matters To Me:
My first IG Live was in collaboration with @supportblackart and featured artists Dana Scruggs, Ciarra Walters, and Ivy Coco, who all produce uplifting and empowering art in their own right. During our hour-long chat, a recurring topic was the weight of internalized pain and trauma we bear as Black women fearing the stigma and perceptions that are attributed to emotional revelations. However, what I love about these women is the way they’ve harnessed their negative experiences into positive will and propelled it towards creative energy, which is distinctly visible in the vibrance and depth of their creations. Finding Black Joy is important because it empowers all to move beyond trauma and transgressions, as Black women and men have done uncompromisingly before us all.
Black Joy That Inspires Me:
I’m inspired by pure, unfiltered, unadulterated expressions of love and camaraderie. Intricate moments that go beyond verbal comprehension. For example, the other day, I heard a Jamaican woman on the phone chatting it up with her family. When she was hushed by an observer, she responded that, in that moment, she felt fully free to express herself, so those hushing her needed to grab headphones. That moment deeply resonated with me because it reminded me of my moms and aunties, joyfully catching up to their relatives overseas in Yoruba while maintaining a stoic silence in public corporate spaces. Those moments of pure joy and laughter are absolutely priceless because they are often limited.
We are navigating unprecedented times. And while Black Americans are no strangers to struggle (see: the timeline of the last 400 years), things feel particularly catalyzing this time around. Protecting our joy feels especially vital. This is why R29Unbothered is teaming up with VSCO for the #BlackJoyMatters project to debut a series of first-time joint programming to amplify the Black experience. Black people don’t just deserve to be alive; we deserve to be happy. So we’re doing what we always do, and we’re leaning into the reasons we have to celebrate — no matter what.