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Black as Light Is a Captivating Exploration of the Black Experience

Erik Jakobs illuminates Black identity with a powerful projection display

By Jewish Arts Collaborative

Published Oct 4, 2023

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This powerful projected installation features an eight-part poem by Boston poet laureate Porsha Olayiwola that explores the Black identity as it relates to light, using an afro-futurist lens to explore Black people as light, Black collective trauma as lightness, and the Black experience as a vehicle.

For Hanukkah 2020, the piece was projected onto the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Projection artist Erik Jakobs wants people to stop and consider another point of light in the constellation of Black perspective…to “[…]make Porsha’s words flicker as if they’re being illuminated by light from a menorah. And they are. The dynamic light and color used in the font is from a video I recorded of a candle flickering in the dark. When Orthodox Jews pray, they often rock back and forth. It is called davening. And it is said that in doing so they are an embodiment of flame. I love that image.” (JewishBoston)

The poem speaks for itself — take a look.

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JArts’ mission is to curate, celebrate, and build community around the diverse world of Jewish arts, culture, and creative expression. Our vision is of a more connected, engaged, and tolerant world inspired by Jewish arts and culture. Learn more at jartsboston.org.

Reflections

Perspective and Public Art

The installation emphasizes the importance of viewing and understanding the "constellation of Black perspective". How does the choice of presenting Porsha Olayiwola's words as a public art piece on the walls of an institution like the MFA Boston differ from reading her poems in a private setting? How might this public display impact community understanding and conversation about race?

Symbolism of Light

The artist integrates themes of Hanukkah, the flickering of a candle, and the traditional act of davening in Jewish prayers to symbolize the Black identity's relation to light. How do these symbols illuminate and add depth to the themes explored in Porsha Olayiwola's poem? How does this fusion of diverse cultural elements inform and enrich the narrative of Black identity, trauma, and experience?

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