by Susan Fried
The Northwest African American Museum (NAAM) was overflowing with people who showed up to celebrate the second day of Kwanzaa on December 27th, the day of Kujichgulia, meaning self-determination.
Kwanzaa is a Pan African American cultural celebration that lasts 7 days, from December 26th to January 1st. It was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga as a way for African Americans to reconnect with their African heritage. There are 7 principles for each of the seven days: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).
In order to explore this second principle of Kwanzaa, Kujichagulia, attendees to the NAAM event created self portraits in a workshop led by artist Hiawatha Davis, whose show “Iconic Black Women” is currently on display in the Museum’s main gallery. Davis thought a self portrait would be a fun way to celebrate this principle since the day is about defining and naming yourself.
When asked about self determination, Davis explained that for him it means “being proud of who you are, knowing what you look like and being proud of what you look like”. He chose a multi-media approach to the workshop which included acrylic paint and magazine cut-outs, to let people know that their creativity and decision-making isn’t limited, stating “whatever you do in this space as an artist is okay and it’s perfect because it’s your expression.”
In addition to the self portrait workshop, the museum also celebrated the second day of Kwanzaa by performing a traditional candle lighting ceremony and serving traditional Kenyan food.
Featured image: Moni Tep, and a young volunteer from the audience light a candle (Photo: Susan Fried)