SHAH NOOR HUSSEIN — FILM PHOTOGRAPHY
Black GRRRL Rising: A Multimedia Cultural Archive of Diaspora
Black GRRRL Rising (2017 – present) is a multimedia cultural archive consisting of installations, publications and academic research on the role of women of color and folk music in cultural and spiritual resilience. Black GRRRL Rising interweaves film photography, musical recordings, poetry, lyrics, dance, embodiment, and filmmaking. The project offers a poignant investigation on diasporic identity formation through a study of poetry and performance among young girls of Sudan. This project continues shah noor’s four-year transdisciplinary academic research & art scholarship portfolio entitled Black GRRRL Healing, which began in 2015.
The photos here, which emerge from shah’s larger project, have been paired with their poems in order to explore the themes of nostalgia, memory, and longing that are present in their creative work and research in diaspora studies. The film photos of “AL BAIT // HOME” and “AL KUBRI // THE BRIDGE” were taken on two preliminary field site trips as shah prepared for their doctoral research and visited family in Khartoum, Sudan. The portrait, “AL BAIT,” was taken at the end of a wedding, when the artists family was piling out of the rented minibus and into their cousin’s home, the home of the bride, where festivities would continue. The landscape, “AL KUBRI,” was taken as the artist and their cousin’s floated down The Nile River on a rented boat and they passed under the bridge at sunset. The photos of hands are a series which was recently shown in the Unbound Roots exhibit (2020) held at SOMArt Cultural Center in San Francisco, California. The images, “Sudanese Sisterhood” and “Spiritual Family,” evoke the diasporic connections of kinship that bind African descendants together. The family portraits accompanying shah’s poetry, featuring “mama” and “baba,” were dutifully dug up and scanned by the artist’s sister, with context provide by the artist’s parents.
The artist’s portrait was taken in their home by Sydney Cain shortly after the image, “AL BAIT,” was featured at SOMArts Cultural Center in San Francisco and sold to a dear friend. The portrait served as a parting memory and moment of nostalgia, which is often already exemplified and highlighted in the artist’s work. It could be titled “portrait of an artist saying goodbye,” if one wanted to be tongue in cheek.
shah’s practice with film photography initiated at a young age, when they began bringing disposable cameras on their trips to Sudan over long hot summers. The practice has now expanded to gallery installations and experimental filmmaking. shah’s visual art has been featured art in the Black Woman is God Exhibits (2016 – 2018), CIIS Womxn & Spirituality Conference (2019), and SOMArts Cultural Center (2020) in San Francisco as well as Ashara Ekundayo Gallery (2019) in Oakland, California. Their photos have been published in CUNJUH Magazine (2017) and their films screened at the Aguas Migrantes International Film Festival in Oaxaca, Mexico (2018).
shah noor hussein is a writer, visual artist, and scholar focusing on black feminism, diaspora, and queer studies. shah is a doctoral student and Cota-Robles Fellow at UC Santa Cruz in the fields of Anthropology, Critical Race Theory, and Ethnic Studies. They have served as a Publishing Fellow with the LA Review of Books (2020), Writing Fellow at the California Institute of Integral Studies (2016 – 2017), and Teaching Fellow for the Peralta Community College System (2018 – 2019). shah currently works as an adjunct professor, a freelance writer, an editor for The Arrow Journal, and a multimedia artist in Oakland. Their recent creative and academic work utilizes multimedia ethnographic research, creative writing, educational engagement, and editorial outreach to activate the radical imaginations of marginalized communities. Their research aims to (re)center marginalized voices in dialogues on alternative epistemologies and cultural reproduction through a multimedia study of Aghani Al Banat, “Girls Music,” in their home country of Sudan. In their free time, shah walks in nature, talks to their ancestors, meditates, eats good food, and sleeps.