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Master Painter Malik Seneferu Talk About His Inspiration, Married Life, and the Politics of Being a Black Visual Artist

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By JR Valrey, The Minister of Information 

When I was around 18 years old, I met the legendary San Francisco born painter and muralist Malik Seneferu, from Hunter’s Point, on the campus of San Francisco State University, while I was a member of the Pan Afrikan Student Union.  This was a very eye opening time in my life when I grew politically and spiritually by leaps and bounds. Malik was a little older, but I would see him painting Black characters at events around campus. After I dropped out of college, I became a writer with the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper circa 2000, and moved to a vacant room at the newspaper offices shortly thereafter. After knowing very few people in the neighborhood before I got there, it was a breath of fresh air to see Malik at a community center on Quesada and 3rd Street mentoring, in between where I lived and the Muslim fish spot, which was one of my favorite places to eat.  I would drop in from time to time, and we would converse about community politics, the politics at the newspaper, or the local electoral politics. 

Later on in life, in the couple of years prior to the pandemic, I would interact with Malik and his wife Karen Seneferu at the Melonie and Melorra Green ran – African African American Art and Culture Complex in the Fillmore. Finally, Malik was being respected by the Bay Area visual art community as the home grown master artist that he is. Just like in the case of another San Francisco raised master artist, Emory Douglas, who was also the Minister of Culture of the Black Panther Party, it took decades for the local community to show the level of respect that he deserved for his craft, and to figure out that we had an artistic giant in our midst. 

Black New World Media believes in giving our people their proverbial flowers while they are still alive, erasing the rapper Biggie’s line from our collective consciousness that, “you’re nobody ‘til somebody kills you”. Check out the master painter Malik Seneferu as we talk a little bit about what inspires him, married life as an artist, and more. Stay tuned. 

JR Valrey: What are some of the subjects of the mural that you have been painting recently and where are they located?

Malik Seneferu: I have done mostly street murals during the pandemic. 

JR Valrey: Who inspires you as a visual artist, dead or alive? 

Malik Seneferu: Ernie Barnes, Dewey Crumpler, Aaron Douglas, John Biggers, Elizabeth Cattlet, Faith Ringgold, Ruth Waddy, and Samela Lewis. 

JR Valrey: How do you decide exactly what you are going to paint on a wall when people may only give verbal suggestions at most? 

Malik Seneferu: It is often based on the pulse of activity I get from my community.

JR Valrey: Do you see all of the details of the painting before-hand or does a need for more detail present itself while you are painting? 

Malik Seneferu: Both.

JR Valrey: What do you see as the purpose of visual art in society? 

Malik Seneferu: Visual artists are agents of imagination and are the very proof of how, a people exist.

JR Valrey: What do you want people to get from your paintings? 

Malik Seneferu: Inspiration and insightful interpretations of culture.

JR Valrey: How has being married for the last 19 years to the phenomenal artist Karen Seneferu affected you as a visual artist, as well as your art? 

Malik Seneferu: I am extremely proud of my wife Karen Seneferu. When I met her she was not an artist in practice, however over the years of me teaching her, and her finding all the way, she was able to grow and blossom. Watching her grow fills me with extreme fulfillment as a teacher, husband, and comrade.

JR Valrey: What are some things that need to happen for Black visual artists to be more successful in the Bay Area? 

Malik Seneferu: Black Bay Area native artists need museum and film representation, and more national recognition. Artists like myself who are born and raised in the Bay Area are often overshadowed by transplants, who come from other places to find their careers.

JR Valrey: If a young Black artist is looking up to you for advice on how to become a successful muralist locally, what would you say? 

Malik Seneferu: Find your voice. Be ambitious. And remain creative. 

JR Valrey: How could people keep up with you and your work online? 

Malik Seneferu: I can be found all over the Internet @Maliksart as well as my website which is a maliksart.com

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