The Afrikan Arts Ensemble at UCLA (AAE) coordinated a Black Horror Art Show this past Thursday. The event featured various art forms including photography, drawings, and live performances to name a few.
I was able to sit down with members of AAE’s staff on Saturday to discuss their choice to have a horror exhibit, why they joined AAE, and the importance of AAE and Black art as a whole.
The art exhibit was spearheaded by Lynzie Glover who chose the shows theme after being inspired by Tananarive Due’s ‘Sunken Place’ course. That coupled with the realities of Black people around her, Lynzie wanted to create an exhibit that depicted “the Black experience and how we interpret our trauma.”
Sitting with staff members Ariel Mengistu, Derek Taylor, Jade Box, Lynzie Glover, Princess Amugo, and Viva, it was clear that they all joined AAE for different reasons.
“I felt a missing void artistically as an English major and I found fulfilment in AAE.”
“Coming from Oakland I was surrounded by Black art so AAE felt like home.”
“As a freshman I saw them doing cool shit and wanted to be a part of it.”
“I grew up around white people making art my whole life and wanted to be a part of Black spaces that did the same. So for me beyond the art, it was the space that drew me in to AAE.”
The significance of Black art and AAE was unique for everybody yet many of the staff echoed the same sentiments. As everyone spoke of Black art’s importance to them, the room exulted in snaps and synced head nods.
“I’m a design media arts major and there aren’t many Black people in that major but I know Black creators that are artistic so we wanted to make a space where they are welcomed.”
“Part of why Black art exists is because it has kept us going for so long. We take things that might be looked upon as bad or negative and make art out of them. And that’s why it’s important: it is healing, it is transformational; I don’t know it’s like magic to me.”
“No it definitely is! It comes from our own truths and that’s why it’s magic. It can’t be repeated or appropriated no matter how hard you try.”
“Black people are art in every form whether it’s academic or something like dance or music, we just embody art. Regardless if it is painful or traumatic it is necessary to express yourself in any medium.”
African Arts Ensemble has been around for decades and was established around the same time as UCLA’s Afrikan Student Union in the 1960’s. The program has undergone restoration the past couple of years as AAE is becoming more active on campus. Follow Afrikan Arts Ensemble on instagram @afrikanartsensemble and stay tuned for announcements on their upcoming general body meeting.