By JR Valrey
“The Black Woman is God Art Exhibition” is a long running tradition in the Black Bay Area that highlights and celebrates the divine feminine energy in our communities, held by Black women. Founder Karen Seneferu is a major cultural and artistic force to be reckoned with, when it comes to Black art that touches the soul, in the Bay Area. She is a visual artist, curator, professor, comrade, mother, wife, grandmother, and more rolled up into one. As we go into the last season of a very life-changing and tumultuous year brought along by the COVID/Shelter in place, The Black Woman is God Exhibition is a ray of some spiritual, ancestral, and cultural hope. For all of those interested, The Black Woman is God is definitely something to tune into.
JR Valrey: How did you come up with the concept for the Black Woman is God?
Karen Seneferu: I came up with the concept, holding a conversation with Melorra Green, the executive director at the AAACC (African African American Art and Culture Complex). She wanted me to do a solo show, and I was interested in creating something similar to Rae Louise Hayward’s “The Art of Living Black” for Black women to honor women from the exhibition that inspired me to be an artist.
JR Valrey: And what made you make it an annual exhibition?
Karen Seneferu: The community came out to support it, and the artists were always ready to submit new work the following year, so it was clear the community not only wanted the exhibit, but culturally needed it.
JR Valrey: Who are the members of your crew, that organizes this with you?
Karen Seneferu: I have been Co-curating with Melorra Green, and artists Ayana Ivery and Idris Hassan. These women are so dedicated I am grateful for their commitment. This year however, Renee Moncada-Mcelroy of Maat’s Production who is co-producing the project.
JR Valrey: Who are the artists this year, that will be included?
Karen Seneferu: We are honored to be in conversation with luminaries such as Renee Cox, Harmonia Rosales, moderated by Dr. Ajuan Mance at Mills College that will open the virtual reception on November 13th.
We also have over 80 visual artists. Renee Moncada McElroy is new to TBWIG as an artist and producer, but not new to the Bay Area. She has an amazing video called “God Code ”, with an MC cypher including Maddy Clifford, Coco Pelia, Ryan Nicole, and Shy’an G, co-produced by The Black Woman Is God and Maat Productions.
New artists to TBWIG we are excited about are: Mimi Tempest, Stacy Mootoo, Corinne Basabe, and Kyle Malanda. There are just so many powerful, creative, skilled Black women artists. I wish I could name them all. Check out our virtual gallery on our website to see who we have this year. It is a global exhibition.
TBWIG exhibit gets more stupendous with each year with phenomenal artists that have produced new music, dance performance, and videos exclusively for The Black Woman is God such as the incomparable Zap Mama, Georgia Anne Muldrow, and Bobi Cespedes, choreography by director Colette Eloi’ and her El Wah Movement Dance Theater, and Turfin 247 by Levi Allen, Brandon Butler and Chris Davis, directed by Taylor Moseley.
JR Valrey: How do you pick the artists that are included?
Karen Seneferu: Skill, Skill, Skill.
JR Valrey: If the Black woman is God, and not a goddess, in your paradigm who is the Black man?
Karen Seneferu: The Black Man is God and The Black Family Is God. This binary constructs design to establish hierarchy and division, to maintain power and control is what I am thinking about when saying the Black Woman Is God; I am interested in reminding the Black community that Black Women’s DNA gives birth to the whole human race, no other woman has that DNA; it is called the Eve gene. I am interested in reminding the community that before European colonization, African culture valued Black women as divine beings. I am interested in pushing back against the derogatory ways the media presents Black women as sexually and violently over-determined. And instead reach for the highest value one can give the Black woman and Black people, which is their own divinity.
JR Valrey: Why is this an important celebration of Black femininity?
Karen Seneferu: This means we are supporting our mothers as the divine being, giving value to Black women and Black girls. In doing so, Black men and boys will see that holding value for the Black feminine means holding value for themselves in relation to it.
JR Valrey: What is the purpose of including male artists in the Black Woman is God?
Karen Seneferu: To show that value Black men hold for Black women and we hold for each other. We become a mirror of divinity which is why on the day of the reception we have an artist talk with Black men called “Let Go, Let God” with the great Malik Seneferu, Danny Simmons, Greg Tate, Kwadwo Addo Gyan, discussing the importance of an art movement entitled The Black Woman is God.
Information about the show at the African African American Art and Culture Complex:
The Virtual Gallery at SomArts
Info for the artist that did the main picture used for this article.