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  • Zainab Aliyu

    June 8, 2019 Interviews

    with the creative director of black girl magik

    Let’s start at the root. Where is your family from, where did you grow up and where do you currently live?

    My family is from Nigeria, West Africa. I wholly represent the Yoruba tribe on both my maternal and paternal lineages. I was born in Lagos and grew up in London, UK. Shortly after, we immigrated to the Bronx, New York. After moving around the US, I currently reside in Brooklyn, NY, but I'm still fighting a perpetual nomadic state of feeling like I don't have just one home.

    How did your upbringing shape your experience of your power and your identity as a woman of African descent?

    I’m here today because I am the dream of my mother and her mother (and her mother, and so on). As someone who has inherited generations of trauma from colonialism, immigration, displacement and forced assimilation, I am concerned with the loss of cultural identity at scale, and the struggles people of a diaspora face with forming identity and preserving their culture. 


    Between BGM meetups, online content and creative productions, we are endlessly creating love notes, safe spaces and hubs of transformation for Black women. How does it feel to be uniting, empowering and supporting the healing of Black women - and in turn the African Diaspora?

    Our practice emphasizes that being a Black Woman contains a range of experiences with so many layers of difference nested within layers of similarity. We want to conjure spaces that can speak through and to that multifaceted lens. We take on a "for us by us" approach to space-making that intends to unsettle current structures of power and whiteness, and aims to reduce a monolithic understanding of our collective experiences. As our mission states, we seek to heal the collective consciousness and generational trauma across the African diaspora. This is something I didn't know that I needed growing up having to navigate predominantly white spaces and contexts that often reinforce a simplification of our identities and experiences. I feel with strong conviction that we all deserve more. As such, it's a responsibility and honor that I don't take lightly.

    For someone who isn’t familiar with Black Girl Magik, what words would you use to describe the magical sisterhood that is BGM?

    Vulnerability, organic, coalition-building, sanctuary, creativity, truth


    Self-care is a huge pillar in our practice. It’s the reason why we implement a self-care break at the end of each year where we step back from creating and cultivating to restore and reflect. What is one piece of self-care advice you want others to keep in mind?

    I believe that self-care comes with a necessary degree of self-awareness -- being intentional about the ways in which you seek healing and growth and being cognizant about what you have the capacity to take on at any point in time. It's about learning to name what you need and being open to organically adapting a regimen as you see fit for your needs, rather than relying on certain tropes.

    As collective members, we come to the table with many incredible gifts and talents that we share in our roles, but are also exploring outside of BGM. Can you tell me a little bit about the work, art or interests you are cultivating?

    Outside of my creative practice with BGM as the Creative Director and a collective member, I am a research-based artist exploring new media approaches to storytelling. Though virtual environments, installations, poetry, printed matter and experiential programming, I seek to investigate the ways in which idiosyncratic identity and collective identity (culture, community) are stifled by oppressive systems. Currently, my research lies within the realms of decolonial epistemologies, reclamation of ancestral technologies and storytelling as a medium of resistance.

    The reason why we center ancestors in our work is because we understand that pathways, dreams, sacrifices and love was created so that we can exist today. As Maya Angelou declared, “I come as one, but stand as 10,000.” What ancestor(s) do you carry with you?

    There isn’t a single ancestor that I don't carry with me, whether consciously or unconsciously. My existence reflects the strength, resilience and resourcefulness embedded within generations of my heredity. With great intention, I carry them all.

    What is the next seed you would like to plant for BGM?

    I’m interested in us continuing to explore our independent creative practices informing one another through a collective lens and would love to see us explore more project based approaches to space-making.

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