Black Biennial: Black (W)hole

Njari Anderson
BFA SC 2023

Black (W)hole*, state of being:

“Black Wholes possess a dichotomy incompatible with the world’s binarized logics. Within black wholes, there is the black, there is the whole, and there is the hole. Whole calls towards intact-ness, a hole indicates a space punctured into the surface of another thing; a break produced; a mark through surface made.” —Gala Prudent

Whether you showed in or showed out, all that matters is that you showed up.

Young and old walked ’round smiling cheek to cheek showing off the constellations in their teeth. Saying: “Look here, you ain’t outshinin’ We. We Real Cool.”

The letter of the day is Black, the number of the day is Black, the weather, Black too, don’t even ask about the color of my shoes. New Beginnings—All Black Errythang.

The audacity to be Black and Whole, the audacity to be Black, (W)hole. They ain’t mutually exclusive, not this or that, but both and more, subsuming all.

Opening night. I felt invincible for the first time in my life. How harsh to be Black in a space so anti-We. To be Black and (W)hole right across the street from where they sold our ancestors for less than free. My Black ass, next to yo Black ass and yo Black ass and yo’s too, but not for display and not for sale.

How rich it felt to be centered, celebrated, loved. To be both the center of the universe, the root of everything, but also proud glitches in White space. I moved through the crowd like a child who didn’t know hurt. But, amidst new beginnings, people, chatter, live music, and the occasional “Fuck, this Jerk Chicken is good,” what I encountered most was the word “need.” This quickly brought me back to Earth. At this Black center, there was the somber reminder of the immense labor it took to bring The Black Biennial to life. Years of labor, visible and invisible hands alike advocating for Black “need,” the needs of those who’ve come before We and for who’ll come after.

The Need to be seen. Need to be loved. Need to be respected. Need to be validated. Need to have Black Space. Need to be Black, (W)hole.

*I borrow the term and definition Black (W)hole from artist Gala Prudent, a Jeen-Yuhs, who I am lucky enough to call my dear friend.

Njari Anderson is a Jamaica-born artist and writer. He lives.

Editors’ Note: The Black Biennial is a student-led exhibition presented at the Gelman Gallery at the Rhode Island School of Design. The show was conceptualized by Rey Londres (RISD PH ’22) and Melaine Ferdinand-King (Brown PhD Candidate ’24). The inaugural show is on view at the RISD Museum March 11 – April 10, 2022, and features more than seventy works by Black artists within the Providence community.