The idea of diaspora has developed significantly in scholastic environments to expand upon an applicable framework for understanding the dispersal of a people from their homeland to an alternative place. After an influential dissertation in 1939 by E. Franklin Frazier on how Africans had adapted to their new conditions in the Americas, as well as a study in 1941 by Melville Herskovits on how Africans maintained their cultural heritage while developing a sentiment of community in the Americas, other scholars have concentrated on the manifestations of “the African Diaspora,” which has typically been conceptualized to be based ultimately upon a shared Black identity created through processes of racialization on a worldwide scale. Regardless of their differing backgrounds, locations and contributions, members of a diaspora generally share an emotional attachment to their hereditary land and connection with one another; face similar difficulties in constructing and developing themselves; are aware of their dispersal and, if conditions allow, of their oppression and estrangement in the nations in which they live.
Attempts have been made for immigrants to stay connected with their native countries while living abroad. For instance, some developing countries have become more invested in giving dual citizenship to the children or grandchildren of immigrants, so as to fortify ties to their roots. Tragically, this does not totally lessen the perception of identity loss and detachment that individuals of a diaspora may feel from their nations of origin.
With this project, I offer myself as the subject matter to investigate the friction between dislocation and descent that leads to a dilemma of social and cultural identity. Generally, children of immigrants who were born in a host society or have lived the majority of their life in a host society, have a tendency to emphasize the host society part of their identity over their homeland origin, while still feeling appended to their roots. Regarding the reshaping of identities, the diasporic experience tends to give birth to individuals who feel uprooted and not genuinely secured to any one specific culture. Ultimately for me, this has led to an unwavering sense of vulnerability within multiple aspects of my life.
“Reflective Confrontation” creates a catalog of my African Diaspora experience through a series of selected thoughts, musings and observations. The piece takes form in two different mediums, one physical and the other digital, through which I aim to represent vulnerability as a tangible emotion. Here lies the digital.
As told by
Zai Aliyu is a Nigerian-American designer and artist who sees every human interaction as an experience that merits attention and thoughtfully intentional design. Her multidisciplinary practice leverages critical pedagogy, contextual inquiry, and the human side of technology to interrogate societal, archived and institutional forces against individual and collective identity.
“Transcending Time” is a voyage into a future where Black identity is unfettered by a predetermined architecture. It is a visualization exercise exploring the texture, pattern, sound and rhythm of Black possibility. Who do we become when healing from trauma is decentralized? We are creating a ceremony of self-authorization. We are giving ourselves permission to reimagine what was, what is and what can be.
"Reclaiming Pleasure" is the assertion of sexual power, alongside a period of recovery. It is a Black woman finding strength in her sensuality and grounding autonomy in the realms of pleasure and desire. It is the rejection of standards set on our ancestors and the distinction between agency and objectification.
“Returning Home” is an exploration back to lands, rituals and traditions that we have always known. It is voyaging and feeling at home as soon as you step foot on the ground. It is hearing music and your soul perceiving the frequencies. It is seeing a familiar face and knowing that somehow you have met before. “Returning Home” is a return to self.