Safiyah Cheatam: Things Imagined

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Kaplan Gallery


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Safiyah Cheatam: Things Imagined 

January 21 – March 6 

Kaplan Gallery


Things Imagined is a multimedia social practice installation that uses the halo motif to externalize and visually manifest the hopes of its Afro-diasporic participants. Retrofitted for COVID-19, the first iteration of this project was held as a group facilitation in November 2019. At that time, twelve participants wrote onto mirrors with vinyl halo cut outs answering the question, “Unlimited and unbound, how do you imagine your ideal future?” I held this event as a consciousness raising initiative for Mundane Afrofuturism. Things Imagined includes images from an accompanying Instagram filter prompting users to draw their answers to various questions as well as video snippets from Black elders who share nuggets of wisdom about their own full lives and the things they’ve manifested through prayer. 

My use of the halo is symbolic of the space around your mind—bringing your dreams, wants and desires outside of your head and into the world. This exercise helps you to see it in physical space, with your eyes, as the first step towards actualizing it. Together we place those ideas within a space of importance because everyone is deserving regardless of wealth or class. Mundane Afrofuturism encourages celebration of the everyday, and in this I uplift even the most basic wants because I intend to promote a growth mindset where we can hope to have more than just our needs met. We can have it all. 

About the artist:

Safiyah Cheatam is a visual artist, researcher, storyteller, arts educator and administrator based in Baltimore, MD. She focuses on material culture and social phenomena involving Black Muslims in the United States, and the role of Afrofuturism in Black folks’ daily lives through which she explores the nuances of duality existing within Black and Muslim people. For her work as a co-producer of her awards-nominated podcast OBSIDIAN, she is the recipient of a Red Bull Arts Microgrant and Rubys Artist Grant by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation. Safiyah was a 2021 VisArts Bresler resident artist and has notably collaborated with the Baltimore Museum of Art, Walters Art Museum, Morgan State University’s Center for the Study of Religion in the City, Black Islam Syllabus, Rap Research Lab. She has been featured in The Washington Post, NBC News, BmoreArt, and has exhibited artworks nationally.

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