Zsudayka Nzinga (pronounced zoo-day-kuh)
Zsudayka Nzinga is a mixed media artist and designer from Denver, CO, currently residing in Washington, DC. Her portrait work features acrylic, decorative paper, hand dyed paper, fabric, oil bars, charcoal, pigment, thread and linocut stamp. She also creates sculptures and jewelry using metal.
Nzinga fuses traditional art forms passed through the Diaspora to create work which speaks to the power of history and how visual art aides in defining culture and identity. Her subjects are Black Americans and often women, placed in regal and empowering poses and scenes. Her work mimics African American stich patterns and expounds traditional southern textile pattern methods and weaving. Her collage work is hand torn and arranged to create colorful and highly patterned people and scenes who resemble fabric.
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 decor 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 traveled 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.
I am a mixed media artist and designer. I consider my studio practice to be cultural anthropology in that I aim to capture and archive through my work the history and culture of Black Americans. I’m very interested in what happens when Black American artist work and narratives are included alongside American art without requiring the Black artist to center their identity in trauma or politics and whether the sight and existence of Black faces is enough to make our work, voice and existence inherently political. My works seeks to normalize the day to day of Black Americans and celebrate culture while also highlighting moments shared by all humans. We all sit in the house, we all water our plants, we are all living an existence with more similarities than differences. My work challenges viewers to include Black stories in American stories. Told through the lens of personal experience, I use acrylic, decorative paper, hand dyed paper, linocut stamp, ink, vinyl, marker, metal, fabric and thread to create images of proud and beautiful people who celebrate who they are. My sculpture and jewelry work uses metal and wire and precious gems.
My collage work uses Chigiri to assemble initial layers of interior design and sometimes for complete portraits. I use African scraps of fabric to hint at the remnants of African identity but create new textile designs and interior aesthetics and clothing that are wholly American. I paint photo-realistic portraits and then abstract the figures to look like quilted pieces of fabric. My work invites viewers to experience the ways that my friends and elders and peers decorate and design ourselves, our homes and our moments. It is a way to engage in our culture without a traumatic narrative attached.
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