Over the last few days I have been working on a new mixed media art piece to be presented at a local art show. When I dive into such a project it is a total spiritual journey for me. This project was and is no different. In fact I have been working on it while listening to some of my favorite music from the African Diaspora. On a technical level it is a pencil, charcoal and ink medium on a 19″ x 25″ poster board. On an artistic/abstract level it is a depiction of a fictitious royal zebra steeped in Biblical and cultural symbolism. Lately I have been drawn to the zebra. Sure I have a large zebra print rug in my house, zebra print in various places of my music studio, and zebra carvings on my wall but believe it or not I do not have an obsession with this majestic animal. For some reason or other I could not get a vision of an art piece of a zebra draped in royal beads out of my head. I could see her in my minds eye and she was as real to me as she is now even after putting her on paper. In my heart this royal zebra would represent a people; an African diaspora. Sure, this seems cliche as it is a zebra, however I do believe there is something to the artistic beauty of the zebra print that lures the aesthetic sensibilities of hearts around the world. As I began drawing the zebra (I like to call her the Zebra Queen) I could hear a name far out in the distance. Alright, well I couldn’t actually hear it, but there it was, on the edge of my consciousness… hanging just on the outskirts of a complete and clear manifestation. I continued to mutter the first half of the name (“Nab-“) but the other half just wouldn’t come. Finally I thought to myself wait, I may be getting something from God… so I went with it and decided to pray about it. Finally after a bit of praying and drawing I decided to look up various names from the continent of Africa that start with “N.” One of the first names I came across was Nabila. I was drawn to this name and it felt like what I was hearing in my soul. When I looked up the definition of the name I was amazed to discover that it is used in Arabic and Swahili and translated as “Noble.” Royal indeed. After looking a short while afterwards I also came across the name Namdi. This is an Igbo (Nigeria) word which means “My Father is Alive.” I thought how fitting, especially since this zebra queen was meant to be a vision of royalty and redemption.
Noble- My Father is Alive
During the time of envisioning this royal zebra, I came up with a fictitious character for a bedtime story I was telling my children. I do not want to reveal it all here since I may turn it into a children’s book, however I will share a quick snippet. Basically the story revolves around a world in an alternate universe that somewhat mirrors ours. It is full of majestic animals not unlike ours except they are (in true classic children folklore) anthropromorphized and inexplicably metaphorical (to the Bible and the story of redemption). The Lions live in a realm of this world and have, by a set of unforeseen circumstances over time, forgotten who they are. There is an ancient Lion who has no beginning and end since he repeatedly shows up through every generation. He visits Nabila’s (The Zebra Queen) grandfather and prophesies that Nabila will reign over the kingdom until a Lion would come that remembers who they truly are. Her (Nabila) tribe represents redemption in unification and she is the noblest amongst them. I should also add that this story started to come together after I posted an early photo of the zebra queen on Instagram and a friend of mine responded with a vision he recently heard about in the form of a zebra riding over South Africa. In the vision the zebra represents unity and a spiritual racial reconciliation. Interesting. Anyway, I just felt like all of this was leading to something, or not… either way it has been a journey and honestly I don’t even know how to end this blog (insert laugh). I will simply leave you with this thought. I realize that to some this may seem like fantastical esoteric rambling of another artist reaching for some deep meaning in the unknown, while to others it makes for great art and spiritual meaning invigorating their faith. Either way their are much stranger things happening in this world and it is my belief that I serve a mysterious, wonderful, and loving God who speaks through us… even in the drawing of zebras. Ha!