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Arts & Culture

Student Artists Capture Spirit of Black Lives Matter

Sadat Art for Peace Competition Winners Announced

By Laura Ours and Brittany Kyser

"Intolerable," a sculpure by Daniel Merkowitz-Bustos '21

Photo courtesy of the Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development

"Intolerable," a sculpure by Daniel Merkowitz-Bustos '21, was one of 17 entries from Department of Art students in this year's Sadat Art for Peace Competition, which focused on Black Lives Matter.

As Black Lives Matter continues to shed light on anti-Black violence, racism and systemic inequalities in the United States, University of Maryland students are addressing these challenges in works of art that bespeak pain, contemplation and resilience.

Every year since 1998, the Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development and the Department of Art have jointly hosted the Sadat Art for Peace Competition, calling for submissions on a timely theme related to peace and reconciliation.

For this year’s competition, focusing on Black Lives Matter, 17 students in the Department of Art submitted works in 2D and 3D categories. Winners were selected by a distinguished committee of judges.

“In engaging social and political issues of the day, artists often provide powerful perspectives captured by their creative work,” said Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development. “After students reflected on the theme of Black Lives Matter, the resulting art and descriptions—especially the winning pieces—enhance our public conversation about compelling questions of our time.”

The winning pieces from this year are:

2D works

Nia Parks ’21, “Reclaimed”

First Place: Nia Parks ’21, “Reclaimed”
Memorials to an incomplete emancipation swirl in the background while a white cop shoots in the foreground, his gun spewing “the looming shadow of history past, symbolized by the cyanotype of a singular cotton branch,” Parks said. She further explained that blood-red ink splatter marks the violence that continues to plague this country, while the branch is “broken as a gleam of hope that the bond of past horrors can be broken by tireless work of protest.”

Randa Gahima ’22, “Organization & Mobilization 21”
Second Place: Randa Gahima ’22, “Organization & Mobilization 21”
Inspired by African culture and bearing a slogan, “All Power to the People,” from the Black Panther Party, Gahima’s acrylic painting on canvas carries a message of unity. “All the figures are close together and tight knit, symbolizing fighting racism not with racism but with solidarity and comradery,” Gahima says.

Boma Tende ’21, “Our Pain”
Honorable Mention: Boma Tende ’21, “Our Pain”
Tende created her acrylic painting of a woman crying for Black people in the United States and Nigeria who’ve been beaten, pepper-sprayed and killed by authorities. “This is our pain. But I know my people will overcome this. Our struggle, our pain will never define us. We are beautiful, wonderful, magical. Our lives matter. We are worthy of life. Black Lives Matter.”

3D works

 Daniel Merkowitz-Bustos ’21, “Intolerable”
First Place: Daniel Merkowitz-Bustos ’21, “Intolerable”
A Black fist cast in cement rises from a heap of discarded medical gloves—purple to represent African American power and resilience, yellow to represent deceit in a medical system that too often fails in its protective mission. “Lack of prenatal care. Lack of medication. These are the realities of the American health care system when addressing Black lives,” Merkowitz-Bustos said in his artist statement.

Milan Warner ’22, “Little Identities”
Second Place: Milan Warner ’22, “Little Identities”
The artist’s own hair, painted white and arrayed on white canvas, tells “one small story among millions of others” about discriminatory laws, policies and cultural standards often applied to Black hairstyles in order to “force assimilation into Eurocentric standards and plant the idea of Afrocentric inferiority.”

Heidi Zenisek M.F.A. ’21, “Chair”
Honorable Mention: Heidi Zenisek M.F.A. ’21, “Chair”
A fragile, empty chair, sewn out of holographic film, serves as a symbol of loss. “It is a placeholder for those no longer with us, offering sentiments of mourning, remembrance, and honor to the lives that have been brutally taken by the police,” Zenisek said.

View all submissions and descriptions.

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