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As a child, children would blatantly ask me “what are you?” As a teenager, my peers would joke and say you are my African queen or Nubian princess. As an adult, I find myself tangled up in conversations about whether I am truly African-American, Black enough to be Black, or if I am too American to be African. Growing up in a city where there was a population of 6 Africans, which was my entire family, I never took the time to discuss my identity with anyone but my father. Thankfully my parents were always there to reinforce my Ethiopian-American identity. Being in the DC metropolitan area now, a place full of culture, I now know every first & second generation immigrant experiences this at some point in their life and Nadia Sasso is attacking identity head on.
Beautiful, outspoken, and goal-orientated are all words that come to mind when describing, my new friend, Nadia Marie Sasso. This past week, in the midst of a random snow storm, I was able to sit down with Nadia at one of my favorite spots, Bus Boy and Poets in Arlington. She is the daughter of Sierra Leonean immigrants, a Maryland native, and currently resides in Pennsylvania. Pursuing a master’s degree and completing her thesis at Le High University, Nadia is the definition of versatile. Not only she is student but she is a brand curator, social entrepreneur, and digital storyteller. During our meet-up we laughed, we joked, and bonded over the similarities of our experiences of growing up in America. But for Nadia the topic of identity is not just for laughs but rather for research. As mentioned before Nadia is taking identity development by the horns, in producing a documentary, alongside cinematographer Corey Packer , on the ever so popular question “Am I too African to be American, too American to be African?”
She traces her interest in this topic back to a panel discussion at Bucknell University, where she attended undergrad. The panel consisted of generational immigrants that openly discussed their experiences in the United States. Not only did this panel steer her in the right direction but it gave her insight on a topic that has not been translated into film just yet. Nadia has found a way for her passion to be her thesis project. Her film, which includes in-depth interviews with women from different African backgrounds, will be the first of its kind that can be appreciated by all: academia, cultural enthusiasts, and the general public.
The film will debut this spring and to find out more about her projects or this particular film please visit: http://www.iamnadiamarie.com/. Make sure you subscribe to #SDBUP to find out when screenings in the DC area will occur!
Connect with Nadia Marie
Astu Mengesha – Stay Down Blaze Up
“Art is all about expression, you will value your art when you drop a little part of you in it. You will be patient enough to perfect it.”
Born and raised in Ethiopia, Narel moved to the United states at the age of 12. He attributes a lot of his foundation to his father, who discovered his gift early on and enrolled him in art school at the age of nine. He was the youngest in his class but was able to prove himself by picking up art fundamentals, right away. Art was not just a childhood fling, as it can be for many of us, but rather a passion that further evolved through intense lessons. Upon enrolling in AP art courses in high school, Narel was able to refine his talent and learn how to be more open and true to himself when creating.
Art is something that allows Narel to see the ‘surreal world’ in reality. He states “I do not just imagine it, but I create it – it is more of a deep subconsciousness state of mind I deal with. Art will define you. What you think, is what you print. It is a journal. It is the real you. It is sacred.”
When reading his submission, I truly began to believe that Narel creates because it is his calling. Art is extremely profitable and for many and it can be a way to make ends meet, so it is easy to see how artists may lose passion as it becomes a duty. Narel expressed the following “I have a lot of paintings that I haven’t even shown to my close friends. I’ve never sold any of the pieces and every time the subject comes up I always refuse. I, honestly, do not think I will ever sell any of my work.”
When asked what his favorite medium is, he responds: “I am a fan of Expressionism and Surrealism. Acrylic paintings are my favorite but I always keep a stack of sketch pads that I doodle in everyday. Ink, pen, & color pencils are always perfect. It is always the quickest way to create my rough drafts.” He later elaborates “I admire fine art. I look up to a few well-respected artists and couple of Surrealism painters but I’m more of dark arts fan. Meaning, I rather paint what I feel. I am a fan of what made me, Narel, I take time to admire the negative in me. I rather paint about my psychedelic thoughts of the perfect world rather than my reality. I rather define lust than love. If I can’t vent in art, I wouldn’t, at all.”
All of his pieces are purposeful. “All of them are a reminder of a particular season, I look at them as a journal. And so I value them all the same.”
Below are samples of his work, links to more of his creations, and ways to connect. Enjoy!
Connect with Narel
Instagram:@Na_rell or @Narelart| Youtube: youtube.com/narelart
Astu Mengesha – Stay Down Blaze Up