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A Legacy of Culture & Fine Art: The N'Namdi Gallery & an Exploration of "Contemplation of Flight"

Updated: Jan 16, 2021

It runs in the family, one could say of the N'Namdi Art Galleries that span across the country, with locations in cities such as NYC, Detroit, Chicago, and most recently Miami. Like a king to his heir, the N'Namdi Galleries were passed down from father to son, Morehouse graduate, Jumaane N'Namdi, to further expand the empire.

Initially misconceived as a party town, Miami, in all of its diverse splendor, attracted Jumaane as the next best location for the gallery.

"It's great, all the different cultures. I sell to people from all around the world. Latin and Caribbean communities look at art differently, I like it. I don't know if they are raised like that, or the environment is creatively built, not necessarily commercially built. In America, we grow up with an emphasis on buying things. In Cuba, they don't just buy things, they're creating it, even if it's something for use. Like building a car from scratch, that takes an artistic kind of mind that I really enjoy."

The gallery not only adds value to the Miami art scene as the only black-owned gallery, it brings a legacy of carefully curated fine art.

"We brought another area of exposure that wasn't there- just the gallery and the history of the gallery and history of the artists, it makes a great puzzle all together."

With history comes expertise in picking talent. "I bring established artists, black or white. I've been doing this 23 years myself, so I've been doing this longer than a lot of galleries. On top of that, my father had been doing it another 20 years before me. So I'm bringing the history, and I get more attention from that."

Covid hasn't halted the gallery from taking innovation to new heights and finding ways to expand their platform.

"I've always wanted to do my own thing where I promote the artists. When Covid happened, I said time to start producing my segments to educate people on art."

Presenting the art via virtual videos with "Your Art Guy" has proven very successful to Jumaane and reaching his audience. "I've been doing very well with my exhibiting since Covid. Everyone getting to see it more means you can reach everyone. Some people would like the outlet of art but can't go to the galleries anymore."

In the continued spirit of evolution, Jumaane's future plans for the N'Namdi Gallery include continuing the platform "Your Art Guy", pushing art to his audiences virtually. In terms of the gallery itself, he plans to keep bringing to his collection of exhibitions, artists of varying levels including emerging, mid-level, master, and deceased master.

One of the artists that has continuously stayed on Jumaane's radar, decorated artist/photojournalist Rashaun Rucker, featured in the above self-portrait, has always produced art with an edge, including his most recent work "Contemplation of Flight".

"I didn't see these before hand," says Jumaane regarding Rashaun's work. "He sends me the pieces and I put them up. I trust him whether people come in and like them or not. I know they're good and people should see them. You have to be a step ahead of the viewer."

From winning an Emmy Award, to being honored by Black Enterprise Magazine, Rashaun has shined a spotlight on black culture in an innovative way through his drawings, prints, and photography. In his most recent exhibit, Rashaun brilliantly parallels the black experience to that of pigeons. Explaining the correlation in depth on the must see "Your Art Guy" interview on the N'Namdi website, Rashaun describes the ways in which pigeons, like blacks, are often looked down on in society, are "pigeonholed" into narrow lanes, and struggle with breaking free of coops to fly.

One of the artist's favorite pieces in the "Contemplation of Flight" series, featured above to the left, is entitled "Overbooked", representing the act of defiance. The subject in the drawing is channeling the energy of the likes of Black pioneers like Rosa Parks, not giving up what's rightfully yours, standing on what's righteous and just.

One of the rare times Rashaun uses color in his work are pieces like "Coop #2", symbolizing redlining and the many obstacles that have existed for many people of color. From structural redlining like denying business/home loans, to the psychological effects of redlining, like the deep rooted feeling of not belonging, the longing to fly away and break free of the constraints are at the root of the subject.

Another unique piece in the collection, "I Stayed Too Long" is the only horizontal piece, representing the consequences of staying in designated spaces too long, remaining confined. All too often, fear of the unknown and fear of failure prohibit people from spreading their wings and reaching their potential, whether it be higher education or simply leaving the neighborhood that they and generations before resided. For some, the consequences of complacency can be deadly, leading to real and final coops, such as jail or untimely death.

In the above left picture, is "Soar: Break Every Chain," which has an uplifting effect, representing what the artist wants for all of us, to break out of the coop and to be free. The piece represents the strength of breaking through adversity to transcend and take up space in every inch of America, defining our own futures.

To the right of me, "Finally Free" depicts death as an ultimate freedom, and an end to suffering here on earth, to experience dignity that wasn't fully achieved during life. The dove, essentially a white pigeon, represents purity and hope, while in juxtaposition, the black pigeon is marginalized and stigmatized.

The magic in Rashaun Rucker's work is that he is able to take serious societal issues, like mass incarceration and the psychological effects of redlining, and weave them into mystical portrayals, that to the untrained eye, may represent less trivial whimsical topics.

"If I did it in a very in your face way, the person who really needed to see it may not ever look at it. But if I draw a pigeon with a man on top of it, you would run over there, because you might like Harry Potter or something whimsical but it's really about the oppression you put me under."

In terms of the legacy and impact of "Contemplation of Flight," Rashuan imparts final wisdom to his audience. "I want you to think about it. Are you somebody that built a coop for somebody, or did you break somebody out of the coop? Or did you stay too long or did you fly? I want people to think about those things and how to make spaces better for people."

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