Nneka Kai is an interdisciplinary artist from Atlanta, Georgia. She received her MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2019 and a BFA from Georgia State University in 2017. Kai’s work is a fluid material exploration of a black radical feminine identity through quotidian gestures and minimalist aesthetics. In her practice, she uses abstraction to reimagine an existence that expands ideas of self, site, and time. In 2019, Kai had her first solo exhibition at Material Gallery in Chicago. Kai has also shown her work in group exhibitions in Atlanta and North Carolina.
My work seeks to understand the free Black feminine form through material and immaterial investigations considering elements of place, time, and being. In my studio practice, I explore the concept of Black femininity and its autonomy to reimagine and create an abstract amalgamation of a black gendered body. Using hair as my primary material, it becomes a vessel in which its materiality possesses a methodology of intimacy, care, and refusal. There were moments of learning and absorbing, sitting in between my mothers legs. She was performing an ingrained knowledge taught to her. My mother braided my hair to last. Lasting.
My interest in fiber techniques of braiding, cornrowing, and coiling speak to a diasporic root system that stretches through time. Revealed in the basketry from Cameroon, to the asymmetrical crimps ladies wore in the 80’s, to the colored weaves of today. Each gesture tells a story, one that is unique to each who experiences it. Combined and explored through elements of sound and performance, I transmit and translate these conceptual frameworks through the movement and sonic constructions. Rooted in and inspired by archives, personal anecdotes, and black theorist teachings, my art practice seeks to make space for fluidity and texture of the blackness in its past, present, and future.