Kikesa Kimbwala DeRobles, La Nombraron Prieta, 2020
La Nombraron Prieta is a self-portrait addressing the marginalization of Black LatinX people and their denial of place in the sacred space of their own culture. Identified by family members, as “prieta”; a derogatory Mexican term for Black people, this beveled canvas frames the tension between the cultural experiences one self identifies with and the racial identifiers projected onto them as a means of excluding Black persons from their own histories, traditions, and communities. Nestled between her falda de baile folklórico (traditional Mexican dancewear) and the puppy she holds dearly; reflecting her own Blackness and othering, the child’s sense of self hangs in this balance.
Kikesa Kimbwala DeRobles is a Congolese-Mexican American artist. Originally from Pomona, she earned her B.F.A. from Howard University and has since developed her studio and curatorial practice on the East Coast. She regularly employs a protective maternal gaze to dissect the violent and tender experience of caring for people of the Black diaspora, often as exposes a subject’s childlike vulnerability. Her practice, an investigation into the historical, social, cultural, and personal roots of the traumas one associates with their identity, is in the objective of providing healing and protection not only for her subjects, but for her viewers and for herself. My portraits address the fractured and fragmented identities of vulnerable peoples, either inherently embedded in their colonial histories, or as the product of racial, social, and cultural traumas that damage the psyche. As altars used to protect the spiritual and physical bodies of their subjects, my paintings illustrate the dichotomy between celebrating one’s sacred humanity and a helpless awareness of the circumstances surrounding our identities and the experiences they elicit. My visual concepts apply these philosophical and psychological questions to speak to generational traumas, that as adults we are forced to identify and unlearn from the circumstances of our upbringings and the elements that have conceived our sense of self. The series, Negras da Terra, reflects an interest in identifying these traumas in the intimate dynamics of personal familial relationships