Four years ago Philadelphia-born, multidisciplinary artist Skikeith shared the film #blackmendream, where he presented black men with the question, “when did you discover you were black?”. The directness of this question required the interviewee to give a direct answer. However, it brought to the fore a contemplation on how we perceive ourselves, as well as how and when racial identity and recognition become a bright spotlight in the lives of black men. It also allowed for contemplation around how the people interviewed navigate their blackness and their masculinity, with the people interviewed often expressing that the discovery of their racial identity often came through violence.
The lived and imagined experiences of black men, particularly black queer men, is a common thread in most of Skikeith’s work. Linked to this is the unpacking of violence against, and reclamation of the black body.
“I’m really tapping into the idea of conjuring up images of black men who exist together, whether that be supporting one another, crying, joyful, praying, anything that could disrupt perceptions of self. To open up to a new beginning,” Shikeith states in an interview with Dazed.
His imagery comes across as a snippet of a hazy memory from an early morning dream, bringing out an arresting vulnerability and honesty. His more recent work, such as This was his body / His body finally his also speaks to Skikeith’s desire to present elements of himself and his own journey within his work. “… I have to realise how important it is to showcase my own story in my work, so that it can resonate for other black men – imagining myself in a state of art.”
To view more of Shikeith’s work visit his website.