Sahra Soudi sat patiently during our interview, wringing their hands every now and then as they processed the weight and excitement of the days to come.
Golden earrings that took shape of a hand dangled from their ears as they talked. The earrings were a gift from a friend and were crafted specifically for Black women, carrying their strength and magic. Soudi wore them hoping to gain that strength, power and light.
The third year Multimedia student is getting ready for their first curated show at HAVN, the Hamilton Audio/Visual Node gallery and workspace on Barton Street, this coming weekend. The three-day exhibition is a long time coming for Soudi, and was bred out of wanting and needing to create an artistic space that celebrates Black identities.
Apprehensive about having their own solo show, Soudi turned to the support of the HAVN community, as well as COBRA, the Coalition of Black and Racialized Artists, to put together the Can I Kick It? Yes, You Can group show.
Despite taking place during Black History Month, the show not only celebrates Black history, but makes a conscious effort to address and celebrate Black futures.
“I want to get people to move away from thinking about ‘oh we only need to celebrate our history’. Not everyone can do that, especially because it’s really hard. With the future aspect I also wanted to explore Afrofuturism,” explained Soudi.
Afrofuturism is a philosophy of science and history that combines elements of science fiction, Afrocentrism, and fantasy to critique and revisit historical and present-day issues and oppressive systems that the Black community faces.
“Some of the themes that [the exhibit] puts out there is exploring the relationship between Black bodies and space, [as well as] performing unapologetic Blackness, and doing away with systems of power that have been historically oppressive to not only Black people but also Black artists,” explained Soudi.
Can I Kick It? Yes, You Can will feature the artwork of Destiny de Kock, Stylo Starr, Sam Carter-Shamai, Anthony Haley, Magda Uculmana-Falcon, Abbey Adiekum, Isa Ben, Ismail Alkashim, Jamie Milay, Melissa Charles, and Ebassa Dugassa.
One painting in particular will explore institutional and systemic racism in terms of police brutality. Soudi hopes the piece will confront the audience and initiate conversation within the art space as a means to confronting systemic inequalities.
“Blackness is something that is always politicized even when you’re not trying to. A few of the submissions that I have [are trying to] move away from being politicized and reclaiming those identities [by gaining] control over what [they’re] sharing. A lot of it is celebrating those identities,” explained Soudi.
Can I Kick It? Yes, You Can will also include some of Soudi’s own pieces celebrating prominent figures in the Black community and activists. Angela Davis and Assata Shakur are two women that have strongly influenced Soudi’s community organizing and activism, and now their art.
The show will also include photography that highlights the beauty of Black people and a video installation that celebrates identities. Friday night will open with much anticipated performances by DJ Judah Jump with Joanna Joanna, Shanika Maria, Kojo Damptey and Emay.
“I’m just really excited because these performances are inherently unapologetic, they’re fun and loud. I think it’s really cool that people can come to a space for that… I want people to be able to come out who don’t normally go see art shows because they don’t see themselves represented,” said Soudi.
Soudi also hopes that the show will encourage the art community to continue carving out spaces for Black artists in Hamilton. They are serving as inspiration for others who want to showcase their own work and curate shows.
“I think it’s nice to see someone who isn’t entirely sure of them self, still do something that’s really important and that sort of changes the structure and formula of like how you are supposed to go about doing things,” explained Soudi.
Curating Can I Kick It? Yes, You Can was a learning experience for Soudi, but HAVN and COBRA have been a constant supportive community and Soudi’s friend, Jamie Milay, always offered a shoulder to lean on.
Throughout this journey Soudi found strength in themselves and paralleled support and resilience in their community.
Can I Kick It? is a question that lingers alongside self-doubt in Soudi’s mind. It’s a question many Black artists ponder on. This exhibition is an affirmation that Yes, You Can carve out spaces, Yes, You Can celebrate and share your identity and Yes, You Can unapologetically express yourself.
Can I Kick It? Yes, You Can will open at HAVN on Friday Feb 16th from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. and during the weekend from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.