Husband and wife artists Zsudayka Nzinga and James Terrell’s new exhibit of paintings, “Born at the Bottom of the Ship,” recently debuted at the Center of the Arts in Virginia.
Nzinga Terrell says she remembers the day in high school when students were asked to speak about their family history. She remembers “white kids were able to get up and talk about hundreds of years of their background. And there was me and one other black kid in the class who could go back to a plantation in Virginia and that’s it.”
She and her husband James explore that identity with their work on “Born at the Bottom of the Ship.”
Pieces such as “Hope and Grace,” which is a painting of two women wearing clothes with traditional colorful African patterns, depicts the story of Africans becoming African Americans.
In the painting you see the women with afros, which Nzinga Terrell say could be accurate today or in 1960.
James, on the other hand, has a more abstract take with his painting Mami Wata. The painting shows a woman rising from the ocean. He explains, “is a goddess of the sea…. There’s no light going through; there’s not a lot of color being seen, as opposed to the other ones. So, it’s just showing the time of the slaves being brought to America.”
People who have visited the exhibit have expressed seeing themselves and their family members in the paintings. The different types of people in the paintings reflects the many Americans that come from other countries and cultures.