By JR Valrey, The Minister of Information
The Black Woman is God’s first exhibition was in 2013 curated by visual artist Karen Seneferu and curator Melorra Green, in San Francisco. Since then, the exhibit has been a seminal event for the artistic and cultural community of Black women in the Bay Area, with the participants ranging from visual artist and the first woman Black Panther, Tarika Lewis, all the way to political heavyweight and San Francisco Mayor London Breed, and everyone in between.
This year, because of the COVID restrictions, there was a scaled down version of the exhibit, which was themed: “The Blueprint: presenting artwork that reveals the healing solutions needed for the community”. 20 artists participated instead of the normal 80, but the show has definitely gone on.
I wanted to talk to one of the co-founders of the Black Woman is God, so I sat down with the visual artist and Berkeley City College lecturer, Karen Seneferu. Check her out in her own words as we discuss this year’s exhibit and the history behind The Black Women is God. Tap in.
JR Valrey: What is the theme this year? How do y’all pick the concept for the theme every year?
Karen Seneferu: The theme this year is The Blueprint. presenting artwork that reveals the healing solutions needed for the community. Oftentimes it comes from talking about the experience of the exhibit before and a word or phrase rises up that sticks.
JR Valrey: Who will present this year? How do you pick who will present in the annual TBWIG exhibit?
Karen Seneferu: Since Covid, the exhibit has reduced in size; at the highest number is has been 80 artists; this year it is 25 artists, the featured artists this year are
“The Bottle Tree,” Main Image
“The Axe Forgets, But The Tree Re-members,”
JR Valrey: How has the San Francisco COVID restriction of needing a full vaccination to participate in anything social, affected the Black Woman is God exhibit?
Karen Seneferu: It has reduced the amount of artists and audience members that can participate in the exhibit. Therefore, the ceremonial joy that comes with the community celebrating the exhibit openings where we have had up to 2500 people has now been reduced to a private opening of 100, which still brought joy, but joy is something you want to expand amongst the community and not a select few.
JR Valrey: How has the pandemic affected the exhibit in other ways?
Karen Seneferu: It has allowed on the one hand, to reach artists outside of the Bay Area through interview, but it also has reduced the amount of artists in the Bay Area to present in person in the exhibit.
JR Valrey: What is the relationship, if there is any, between Afro-futurism and The Black Woman is God Exhibit?
Karen Seneferu: In general, Afro-futurism is an intersection of African diaspora culture with technology, the intersection of the past and future, presented through art, music, and literature to elevate the community’s understanding of themselves in the global society. These elements are present in the exhibit: art, music, dance, and film engaging the philosophy of Afro-futurism. The exhibit is a reminder of our cultural past where Black women were seen as divine beings all over Africa, and engaging these various tools of technology to continuously reclaim that history in the present, all over the world.
JR Valrey: What do you hope that participants get out of presenting with the Black Woman is God Exhibit?
Karen Seneferu: A sense of inclusion, a place to reflect back on the community that makes the artists feel that what they are thinking, creating, feeling belongs.
JR Valrey: What do you hope people who have come to see the exhibit get out of it?
Karen Seneferu: A recognition of themselves.
JR Valrey: What have you been working on as an artist otherwise?
Karen Seneferu: I am working on a new series called “God Cypher,” which symbolizes ancestors emerging forward in the hundreds, on each page. The circles are not painted on, but stamped on with various devices, that I have found. Of the 11 pieces I have done, the size ranges from “42 x 63” to “48 x 72.” In the exhibit I have 11 shown. The circles give the feeling of a 3D effect because of the color combination and the placement of the circles.
JR Valrey: How can people stay online with you?
Karen Seneferu: You can find TBWIG at these online sites: