Zsudayka Nzinga (pronounced zoo-day-kuh)

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Zsudayka Nzinga is a multi-disciplinary fine artist, curator and arts educator from Aurora, CO living in Washington, DC. She considers her work cultural anthropology, largely focusing on mixed media portraiture and interior design installations that reflect American culture.  Her pieces explore mixing patterns and textures to create collages using acrylic, oil, decorative and hand dyed paper, fabric, thread, linocut stamp and ink on canvas.   She also makes metal jewelry and builds, and reupholsters found furniture. 


Nzinga started out as a spoken word artist and performer.  While attending Hampton University and Metropolitan State College of Denver she pursued a journalism degree and self-published 3 books of her work.  She spent several years touring the country performing, hosting and curating spoken word and special arts events before focusing on her own art. She has shown her work and performed in galleries and museums all over the country and been featured internationally in blogs and reviews.  She has curated multiple exhibitions, received a curatorial grant with the DC Commission of the Arts and Humanities.  She served on the board for Freedom School Arts and Entrepreneurship, served as Vice President of Black Artists of DC and participates with the exhibition committee Women’s Caucus for Art DC. She is a proud mother of 3 children and wife to artist, James Terrell with whom she runs their family business selling and exhibiting their art, managing their merchandise line, and assisting teachers and homeschool families with arts integrated education.


Her interest in fabric and textiles is why her subjects are clothed in intricately designed patterns.  The designs mimic the history and style of African Ankara fabric and introduces bright color and patterns to high end clothing designs.  She has recently begun recreating the designs for a clothing and home décor line using textile designs created from the artwork of her and her husband.  Her pieces are to create a narrative and archive of Black American history, identity and culture.


Nzinga began her career as an artist in Denver, CO.  She painted abstract and realism portraits and ran an art gallery.  She also created art programming for nonprofits and private and charter schools and ran a Black Arts Festival.  She made a name for herself in her early 20’s on the spoken word poetry scene and travelled the country performing her written work with her art on the cover.  While traveling Nzinga felt more and more inspired to create images, particularly the missing story of the black woman.   “I felt that when I was telling a story in a poem, people had to have read what I read, seen what I’ve seen to sometimes get the deeper purpose of my work.  When I paint my story, a person can look at it and come to their own conclusions in their own time.  I can really hit them hard but not have to bear the responsibility of having TOLD them.” 


She started learning to paint in acrylic 8 years ago.  The transition made her focus more on line work in her paintings.  She began to study stained glass windows and the ways portraiture can be broken up for messaging.  This led her to study the work of quilt and collage artists to loosen up the images and create more movement and include symbols specific to the Black American culture.  Her subjects are all powerful and composed.  It is especially important for her to highlight the pride and the beauty of her community.  


In her murals and public works, Nzinga feels she has the opportunity to promote pride and connection.  Her figures are juxtaposed together and expressing joy, hope and the love of everyday life.  While her work features Black women, it is an opportunity to highlight the beauty of American culture.


Zsudayka Nzinga Terrell is currently working on new pieces and creating a community art space in Washington, DC’s Ward 7 with her husband, James S. Terrell and their 3 children.  She serves as Vice President of Black Artists of DC, a 501c3 arts organization for Black African identified artists in the DC area. The Terrell’s have a line of home goods, accessories and products featuring their artwork on their website.  She has been featured on multiple news outlets including Voice of America and Washington Post. 

Artist Statement

I am a multi-disciplinary fine artist, curator and arts educator. I consider my work cultural anthropology, largely focusing on mixed media collage portraiture and interior design installations that reflect American culture, through color and design.  My focus is on exploring creating images of Black Americans and humanizing our experiences by centering my narratives in how history, politics and identity impact day to day people.  As an American who is not always seen and engaged as American due to the complexities of the diaspora, I invite viewers to interact with my works and find the similarities between us while celebrating the differences.  I am very specific about not focusing my work on Black American suffering or images which center Black bodies in traumatizing ways.  I like to explore complicated narratives in ways that empower and uplift.


As I’ve grown in my work, I have begun to mix all of the art forms I have done.  I pull from my journalism background and conduct interviews with subjects in my works and experts in the fields I’m covering.  I write and perform poetry that goes with some of the pieces and create books. I create playlists and sounds to accompany the works.  I add QR codes to provide as much information and reference points as possible.  I work to activate all senses in my installations and full bodies of work.  I think seeing an art exhibition should in some way be transformative for the individual experiencing it.   If you see a full body of my work or one of my installations, I want it to feel like you’ve traveled to another place. 


My visual art uses collage portraiture to explore fashion, identity and maximalist Afro Bohemian interior design.  My collages include acrylic, fabric, hand dyed paper, decorative paper, rubber, linocut stamp, ink and marker.  I also metalsmith, build furniture, and reupholster found chairs I rescue from streets and thrift stores.


As a curator my focus has been on Black American art both historically and modern/contemporary.  I’m fascinated by the network of Black museums and galleries around the country continuing to provide Black American artists with opportunities, the racial segregation of the art scene and the idea of “crossing over” for a Black American artist and by our use of color theory and pattern mixing.



For additional press, podcasts and blogs please download EPK above

Washington Post

District Fray Magazine

Washington Informer

Voice of America

ABC 7 Washington DC


Milwaukee Sentinel

Milwaukee Journal

Prince William Living

AMFM Life Magazine

East of the River Magazine  (Cover Story)

Washington Informer

Sanctuary Magazine