Artist Rashad Ali Muhammad draws on travel experiences in Africa to create meaningful mixed media collages that celebrate the spirit of his ancestors. Visit his website to see more art.
I’m an interdisciplinary artist who builds a sense of wonder and mystique into each collage by blending my lived experiences, vivid imagination and refined aesthetic. The resulting art creates striking representations of the human spirit.
Being of the African diaspora, I’ve always had an insatiable desire to connect with Africa and my ancestry.
In 2019 I traveled to Ghana, Togo and Benin in West Africa. It was a life-changing experience that reshaped how I viewed my art and helped me understand the deeper context of why I create.
While in Africa, my body overflowed with a sense of joy and calmness that I had never felt before. The many worries of living as a Black man in America were lifted from my shoulders.
My most significant moment was descending into the slave dungeons while the tour guide reenacted the enslaved conditions. As he explained, I could hear the screams of the ancestors, making me tremble and feel stuck in place. The more I sat and took in the experience, the wailing eventually subsided. Then I heard the ancestors calling to me as if to instill me with their strength and resilience.
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This experience and other reflective moments in Africa helped me understand that I was meant to use my art to uplift and empower people of the African diaspora, celebrating our ancestors’ spirit which has been bestowed upon us. Now, I use that revelation to create art with more intention as I explore the themes of spirituality, cultural identity, being one with nature and flowing with life—while honoring those that came before me.
Collaging reminds me of my enslaved ancestor’s ability to create new ways of existing from different sources. While ties to their indigenous homes were broken, they blended their knowledge and skills in a new world to survive and persevere.
Collage fuses various repurposed pieces, each with a distinct meaning, combined to create new connections and meanings that captivate and engage the mind.
I’m fascinated to see where my intuition guides me as I deconstruct images and material, then instinctively combine them to create something new and inventive. Each collage starts with a feeling or idea inspired by various sources such as experiences, memories, conversations, music or something as simple as a color.
With the initial idea in mind, I let my intuition guide the flow of the composition as I plan the layers, details, and textures. I think of the process as a developing story, adding and subtracting elements until I feel the story is complete.
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