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Natasha Moustache and zakkiyyah najeebah dumas o’neal

Under The Same Sun Images N Moustache 001

Located In: Brincka/Cross Gallery and Susan Block Gallery

The narrative that four different artists tell begins with footage from Chicago in the 1950s; a segregated city, rich with histories of both Black and white lives. Lubeznik Center for the Arts began this selection of artists with the exhibit, Vivian Maier: In Color, on loan from the Chicago History Museum. Arriving in Chicago in 1955, Maier had spent most of her youth in France. She worked as a nanny in Chicago’s North Shore suburbs. Maier observes people, places, nature and architecture through much the same lens, an almost scientific view point. She is a prolific documentarian, yet she remains an outsider from her subjects, not a participant. Many of her photographs are extraordinary in documenting a specific moment in time that feels fresh.

While Maier documents the street, Natasha Moustache (Brincka/Cross Gallery) documents the domestic. Moustache is a contemporary, Chicago-based photographic installation artist whose work reflects their experience as a first-generation, Seychellois-American and explores Black Diasporic relations within colonized spaces. In Under the Same Sun (2019-Present), Moustache visualizes the interconnectedness and transnationality of the Black Diaspora through a familial album of portraiture, domestic interiors and cherished possessions of three women: Apple, Yuvette and Moustache’s mother, Anne. Moustache’s lens is intimate and compassionate. In familiarizing these three women across socio-economics, generations and geographies, Moustache highlights the unmistakable signifiers of Black Diasporic life. Success is defined uniquely by each woman, yet the challenges and resiliency required of living in spaces that were not meant for women of color connect them.

Presented in the Block Gallery, visual artist zakkiyyah najeebah dumas o’neal and composer Ayana Contreras collaborated on a remarkable film, to render the infinite, commissioned by the Chicago Humanities Festival. o’neal’s film is mined from the Chicago Film Archives along with her own footage, and she uses video assemblage to detail a view of Chicago. The film begins with footage of Lake Michigan and of Chicago author, Lorraine Hansberry. Hansberry is most known for being the first Black woman to have a play performed on Broadway, A Raisin in the Sun. Although Hansberry is most known for this work, o'neal weaves in imagery and gestures that allude to Hansberry's lesbian identity, mirroring o’neals own identity as it relates to the ways Black women and queer people are deeply embedded within the social landscape of Chicago.

The cultural production of Black Chicagoans figures prominently as a structure in the film and the score. Contreras uses sound loops of The Impressions (Curtis Mayfield), African-based rhythms and futuristic sounds to score the film and set the emotional tone.

In the film, Hansberry, part of the rich Black cultural history of Chicago, states, “the most ordinary human being, has within him elements of profundity.” o’neal explores this existential thought through what she calls “social portraiture.” The same complexity and reverence for the individual is shared in Moustache’s photographs. to render the infinite is rich with reference to Black lives in Chicago from the 1950s-70s, which reverberates with Moustache’s empathetic gaze, echoing the intimacy and a sense of belonging to the stories they tell.

These artists give us a perception of Chicago that is past, present and future. Moustache and o’neal offer a speculative and realistic approach to image-making that invites us to consider the nuances of shared histories, generational memory and intersectionality.

Natasha Moustache
Natasha Moustache is a photographic installation artist currently based in Chicago. Moustache’s work reflects their experience as a first-generation, Seychellois-American and explores the relationships between Black Diasporic communities within colonized spaces. Their work regularly engages strangers as long-term collaborator-participants, utilizing portraiture and the fabrication and re-imagining of the domestic spaces their collaborators occupy. Moustache seeks to bring the human community into a conversation with itself that transcends difference and emphasizes commonality by enveloping their photography in an experiential exhibition practice that moves beyond the traditional gaze.

Moustache’s work has been shown at the Hyde Park Arts Center, the Houston Center for Photography, the International Center for Photography and the Center for Photography at Woodstock where they were an Artist in Residence (2005). Their editorial work has been published nationally and internationally. Moustache received their MFA from Columbia College Chicago in 2021 where they were awarded the Stuart Abelson Travel Fellowship (2019).

zakkiyyah najeebah dumas o’neal
Chicago based visual artist zakkiyyah najeebah dumas o’neal makes work to further understand how the specificity of her own lived experiences are connected to historical and contemporary movements that involve embodied knowledge production. She explores this through social portraiture, video assemblage, collage, drawing and found images. She seeks to reinforce a different kind of gaze (and gazing), which she processes through empathy, desire, love, queer identity, family, intimacy, illegibility and poetics. Within her projects there's an overlying theme of trying to make sense of what and who she belongs to.  

 zakkiyyah has been included in numerous group exhibitions and has had several solo exhibitions at Mana Contemporary, Blanc Gallery and South Bend Museum of Art. She has curated exhibitions at spaces such as Chicago Art Department and Washington Park Arts Incubator. She is a recent recipient of Chicago Artist Coalition’s SPARK Grant and Artist Run Chicago Fund Grant. She has been an Artist in Residence at Hyde Park Art Center (2019), Artist in Residence at University of Chicago’s Arts and Public Life (2021), and most recently a Visiting Artist in Residence at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN (2021) and 3Arts Gary and Denise Gardner fund Awardee (2022). She is currently a FACE Foundation Laureate Awardee, in collaboration with Villa Albertine (2023).