Kenya (Robinson) is an artist you should know, love and respect; We do, abundantly.
In doing this interview, I was very impressed with the eloquence and creativity with which she expressed herself. While many conceptual artists have been considered too intellectual or un-relatable, Kenya stands outside that box and any other people could try to put her in as an artist, woman, African American and proud Brooklynite. Kenya’s sincerity and self-awareness comes through in visual and performance art that stems from her curiosity, concern and striving for empowerment.
Kenya is a self-taught artist from Gainesville, Florida. A past resident of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s WorkSpace Program (2009-2010) and the 2010 Triangle Arts Workshop, her sculptural work has been exhibited at The Museum of Contemporary Diasporan Arts, The Jersey City Museum, The Aljira Center for Contemporary Art and The 60 Wall Street Gallery at Deutsche Bank. In addition, her performances have been featured at Rush Arts Gallery, MoMA PS1, The DUMBO Arts Festival, Recess Activities Inc. and Cabinet Space.
Kenya is the first interviewee to answer our questions with audio tracks that are, true to form, original works of art. Listen below to Kenya’s sound stories on her debut exhibition HAIRPOLITIC: Pursuit of Nappiness, thoughts on the “The Coon Box” as well as the irony of “social art,” and what it means to live unchained.
Can you tell us about your background?
Can you describe your installation, “HAIRPOLITIC: Pursuit of Nappiness”? What led you to create this piece?
For your 10-day exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA), individual pieces in the installation were displayed at local hair salons/barbershops specializing in “textured”hair. How did that come about?
For artists who create works with a social critique, there is often an important moment in their life that shapes their social conscious. Was there a specific event or set of events that led you to create critical art?
On your blog, you mention a conversation you had with your boyfriend in which you discussed “the uncanny ability that black (American) people have at confining themselves to a box.” You added: “My art practice seems to be overly concerned with disrupting this pattern as a personal matter of course, in fact breaking out of what my boyfriend calls ‘The CoonBox’.” Can you tell us about that “uncanny ability” you’ve observed, what it looks like and where you think it originates? As far as “The CoonBox,” can you break it down for us? What is it and why should we be conscious of it?
What’s your vision for an empowered African American community? Are you hopeful that we’re getting there?
Anything else you would like to share?
Finally, what does living unchained mean to you?