The Nkisi Project Brings the Power of Community to Ice Cube Gallery

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When Ice Cube Gallery director Sarah Rockett had some extra space at Ingrained, the co-op's December group show, she decided that it should take a village to fill it. Inspired by her longing to build a community in Denver as tight as the one she'd left behind in New Orleans, Rockett invited more than thirty artists from six states (including co-curators Peter Yumi and Tammi Kefauver Brazee) to submit their own unique Nkisi Nkondi, or power figures, to be interwoven into a group installation: The Nkisi Project. We asked Rockett to elaborate on her concept, which she hopes will lead to others like it in the future. Keep reading for her insights...

See also: Birdseed Collective Brightens RTD Bus Stops With Art Through the P.S. You Are Here Project

Westword: What was the inspiration behind this project, and what do you hope to learn from it?

Sarah Rockett: The main goal behind the work is to get artists out of their individual solitary studios and working with one another, sharing ideas, finding common ground, learning from one another, and developing a stronger creative community. The Nkisi Nkondi is a point of departure for us, and its use as a community ritual object is the main focus of this collaboration. Personally, I came to have a deep understanding of the importance and power of community when living in New Orleans. I'd like to develop that sense of solidarity in other areas, especially among artists. 

What do you think viewers will take away from the work and the process behind the work?

I hope the viewers see a group of many different individual voices united in a single space. The Nkisi Project is an ongoing effort to negate social boundaries and pretense by manifesting and growing the ties of community. We need one another for our own personal development, enlightenment and the successful progression of our society. If the viewers become more aware of the significance of their familiar and extended communities, then the project is successful. If the viewers begin to see the value of others around them, then we have exceeded expectations. 

What has the experience of working alongside so many others been like for you?

Enlightening. Working with others is the best way to learn more about yourself. I appreciate the nuances of each individual personality, but am also able to see how we are all so human, share many of the same fears, and have similar experiences.  There is something truly awe-inspiring in the vastness of our differences and coincidence of our sameness.

Continue reading to see a sampler of individual power figures created for the Nkisi Project.

Continue reading to see a sampler of individual power figures created for the Nkisi Project.

InGrained and the Nkisi Project open tonight with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. at Ice Cube Gallery and run through December 20. Find more information and gallery hours online.

To keep up with the Froyd's-eye view of arts and culture in Denver, "like" my fan page on Facebook.

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