Kentrifican Art Brings Voice to Student Identities

As the famous artist Edgar Degas once said, “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” 

Kentifrican artwork is about truly seeing and understanding. The Kentrifican Museum of Culture describes this class of art as a collaboration that “explores real and imagined diasporas and the conflicts that arise from issues of visibility within the documentation and display of mainstream history.”

It is an artistic medium that expresses acceptance for all cultures, genders, sexual identities and social classes in a safe place for people to understand history, identity and the future. 

This week at the Clark Humanities Museum at Scripps College, a plethora of artwork ranging from photography to clothing was displayed. The majority of the works displayed were from Scripps students and expressed their views and sentiments regarding their identity in the various social realms that we navigate as college students. 

Next to each art piece were quotations from the artists explaining the piece and its basis. Kohsheen Sharma SC ’18 and Maya Thomas SC ’18 created a photo collage that was a blend of South Asian fashion and their parents' experiences with immigration. 

In their artist statements, Sharma and Thomas wrote that “[they] were inspired by [their] Indian mothers’ and grandmothers’ experiences with immigration and assimilation …These photos were created in order to disrupt conventional notions of which garments are appropriate in different geographies, and examine the racist and colonialist legacies that dictate whose clothing and culture are taken seriously.” 

Another Scripps student, Sarah Otterstrom SC ’17, made her own version of “Chop Suey specs.” In her statement, Otterstrom wrote that “the goggles are here and available to any who wishes to make an investment, of not only money but ideology.” 

Another piece was a bust of a woman with bright blue eyes. The artist Kela Caldwell SC ’17 said in her statement that her art piece “called into question one’s beauty based off the eye-color of an individual … where the perception of one’s eye color assumes European lineage in association with those normalized images of beauty.”

Emily Tabb SC '17 decided to recreate a “white Scripps student’s cork board” filled with pledges of allyship. Tabb said in her statement that “since I have arrived at Scripps, I have witnessed and participated in a very distinctive and insidious form of white liberalism. Here, white students who are engaged in campus organizations or social justice spaces make public performances of allyship in order to solidify our identities as ‘good’ or ‘progressive’ white people.” 

Also included in this series were works from the Uninvited Series by Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle. The pieces focused on re-constructing the narratives of the late 19th and early 20th century West African ethnography through the lens of French colonialism. In her work, Hinkle uses the virus-host relationship to explore the French occupation and the black female body. In an interview with TSL, Cienna Sorensen SC ’19 described the artwork as “moving and unexpected” and that “it was a worthwhile decision to attend the exhibit.”

This exhibit explored ideas and sentiments across the world and throughout time, imagining a place where there is no need to assimilate, where unique cultural, religious, social and familial ties define one's identity, and identifying oneself need not be an acceptance of societal standards, but rather a freedom to simply be. It illustrated points of view that were beautiful not just in their cognizance of issues of visibility and identity but also their courage to express their notions and beliefs. These art pieces blended both the tangible reality and intangible imagination to express a truth.

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