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'Feels like magic': Georgie Nakima displays Afrofuturistic mural at The Ackland

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"Panthress" is one of Georgie Nakima's pieces, created in 2023. It is spray painted on cut wood with custom-printed wallpaper.

Photo Courtesy of Georgie Nakima/Alex Maness Photography.

As visitors walk through the fifth gallery of the Ackland Art Museum, they are met with striking colors and geometric shapes: artist Georgie Nakima’s new installation “Pantheress.” 

The Charlotte-based artist is known for her murals — which are rooted in the African diaspora and Afrofuturism, a genre that elevates Black history and culture through science-fiction, technology and futuristic elements.

“My goal is to tell the story of the diaspora and really highlight the superhero that is not often known or heard of,” Georgie said. “So that can trickle down to the everyday person or, in some cases, it might be quite literally highlighting historical figures.”

“Pantheress” honors the Black Panther Party and movement and sheds light on its women organizers, who composed up to 60 percent of the party’s membership.

Geometric motifs, like Islamic geometric art or Indigenous patterns from around the world, are often featured in Georgie’s works in order to pay homage to pre-existing cultures through a futuristic lens. 

She is also drawn to color theory and psychological responses to color.

“I really like to play with the vibrancies and to certain color palettes that I know are healing to the mind, the body and the spirit,” Georgie said. “And really, it’s kind of nostalgic to the inner child within us.”

Georgie’s site-specific installation is her first at the Ackland. She has previously created commissioned pieces for places such as the World Trade Center ,The Mint Museum in Charlotte and for brands such as DC Comics and Credit Karma.

Each year, Lauren Turner, the associate curator for contemporary art and special projects at the Ackland, tries to meet with artists whose work would be a good fit for the museum’s community-oriented fifth gallery. 

This spring, Turner approached Nakima after seeing her public art projects in Charlotte. 

"I was very, very impressed by just sort of the very colorful sense of joy that she brought to her works and a lot of that has to do with her use of color and her craft style, but that she was able to do so while still alluding to some of the conversations of contemporary society," Turner said. 

The Ackland has showcased Afrofuturistic pieces in the past — including a 2019 installation entitled  “Project LHAXX,” Turner said. However, Georgie’s art manifests the themes of Afrofuturism differently than works prior. 

“Her works encourage what so much of Afrofuturism does in terms of thinking about what the future can look like and how we can build our community in a stronger fashion,” she said. 

Jamila Brown, the curatorial assistant at The Mint Museum and a friend of Georgie, said that her artwork feels like magic.

“A lot of it just feels like there’s inner wisdom that’s speaking to her and she's bringing the figure or face or the image out from the wall like it was already there,” Brown said.

Growing up, art was a large part of Georgie’s life. She was always painting and drawing. However, she did not think an art career would be realistic, so she turned to her other love: science. 

Georgie studied biology and chemistry at Winston-Salem State University. In her art, she finds ways to blend her passions — finding inspiration in nature, life sciences and what is unseen in the world.

“After I graduated, I quickly began finding resources to tap into where I could either merge the two fields or I could slowly take that leap into the arts,” she said. 

Along with the sciences, Georgie is inspired to create art through her heritage as a Black woman in the South.

The "Pantheress" installation in the Ackland consists of a custom-printed wallpaper background and spray-painted wooden cut-outs. This is the first time Georgie has experimented with this type of medium. 

A woman at the center of the art piece, whom Georgie identifies as “you," gazes pensively at the viewer.

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“I like to use my artwork to kind of create a campaign — for lack of a better word — a campaign where we see ourselves in a higher sense,” Georgie said.

“Pantheress” will be on display at the Ackland until July 21, 2024, and more of Georgie’s work can be viewed at her website.

@milaaamascenik

@dthlifestyle | lifestyle@dailytarheel.com