Hiawatha D.’s Iconic Black Women: Ain’t I A Woman virtual exhibit is a beautiful way to give much-needed appreciation to Black women. It is available virtually at Northwest African American Museum (NAAM) and is filled with paintings of iconic Black women of the past, present, and future. Women like Oprah Winfrey, Serena Williams, Michelle Obama and her children and many more to come are part of this collection. I am grateful to have been able to see Hiawatha D.’s art in person, before the pandemic, and enjoy the commemoration of iconic Black women. This collection of artworks originated as branding for his business partner and now wife Veronica Very’s nonprofit. There were originally going to be only 15 women in this exhibit, but Hiawatha D.’s passion for appreciating Black women expanded that number to more than 50 pieces. Each painting fits into one of three categories: elders, ancestors, and queens.
Artists seldom create an entire exhibit dedicated to Black women, although the power it holds to educate and inspire viewers makes it vital. Black women have been fighting to succeed and be seen for so long, and artwork is a perfect tool for people to understand this fight. Entering a space that an artist created solely to worship the many iconic Black women of the past, present, and future is extremely powerful and is what I think makes this collection so formidable. As Hiawatha D. says, “all Black women are iconic”, there will never be an end to appreciating them. Yet Hiawatha D. understands the versatility of Black women who need to be celebrated, which is needed when trying to narrow down the iconic Black women of the world to about 50. The variety in the women shown in his exhibit is important and shows viewers how many known and unknown Black women have made an impact on the world. Furthermore, the beauty of his paintings makes the experience all the better. Hiawatha D.’s career has consisted of illustrating Black people, and the skillful artistry showcased in his work transforms the experience.
The idea of elders, ancestors, and queens incorporated in his pieces furthers the success of them. Elders being the Black women who have had to experience different stages of the world’s racism and sexism, giving viewers an opportunity to understand how the world has changed in the last decades and what it looks like to continue to fight for equity. Ancestors, the Black women who have passed away, show the history of the rights of Black women and how strong they needed to be to create progress. Queens, Black women who have much time to make their mark on the world, show us what future leadership will look like. We need to honor all the Black women we can, as they are constantly fighting against adversities and are often not heard or seen, and I love how Iconic Black Women: Ain’t I A Woman does just that.
Hiawatha D.'s Iconic Black Women: Ain't I A Woman is available as a virtual exhibit at the NAAM. For more information see here.