Photo Captured by Carlos Bell
Written by Yawo Brown
Back in Los Angeles circa 2009, I had the privilege of meeting and hanging out with visionary artist, Roni Nicole, through various overlapping and mutual social circles. Having been and instant fan of her work and her vibe in general, I was always curious to know more about her art, influences, and outlook on creating from an honest space. Well, I finally got to chat with her!
Since meeting in L.A. we’ve both relocated and much has changed. People have passed and old souls have returned to remind us things we’ve forgotten. One thing has stayed the same, Roni has been extremely productive and put together an increasingly impressive body of work piece by piece.
Where were you born?:
Roni Nicole: born in dayton, ohio
What makes you and your art magical?
Roni Nicole: my art is all wrapped up in admiring god’s art. i look at creation, the myths our lives create and try and be as open to how fly god made people, nature–and how the clash of human experiments fit up against that–or not. i think that by being open and in awe when doing the work, magic happens. i think people feel magic in my art because it’s a mirror. they see themselves in ways that linger in their memories pre-mind fuck. even if the story deals with a shadowy moment, there is always that element of spirit there, ever-accessible.
What was your definition of love as a child vs how you define love in adulthood?:
i grew up with my grandparents who were very romantic. my grandaddy wouldpat-slap my granny’s booty and they’d peck each other throughout the day. at night, she’d put her leg up on him and they’d cradle each other. seeing love this way so early made me a romantic. i also saw them weather many storms with strength and grace. when he passed, her eyes would still light up at the mention of his name. as an adult, i’ve searched for someone i could grow old and wise with. someone who saw the work of building a life together as a gift and had the stamina to nurture that gift. love is action and in the past, i’ve fallen into arms of men who loved the idea of loving me, but didn’t have the ability to actually do it. at times, i didn’t have the ability, either.
love is a choice and it’s work.
sweet, but work still.
What role does ancestry play in your life?
my mother died when i was 19. losing her on the physical plane forced me to heal those wounds posthumously. my journey led me to the ocean and i found her there. once that link was reestablished consciously, she came in dreams and taught me to rely on her voice in many ways. in addition, i am the youngest of 5 and my grandmother told me the stories (over and over) and i inherited the photographs of our familial history. i feel blessed by this birthright. i pray to keep them venerated and keep evolving our bloodline.
What were the influences that led you to want to become an artist?:
i was terribly frustrated by not being able to draw like my mother could as a young person. i felt creative and could dance and act (and for a short-short stint, rap), but i wanted to express visually and could never bring my soul through a pencil. as a high school English teacher, i discovered an unopened camera in our department office and it’s been a love affair ever since.
How has creativity changed you over the years?
i believe that sweet things breed sweet things. i found myself comfortable in my self through creating. the work itself makes you attuned to your senses and creates an empathy for other humans. i’m sure it made me a better lover. it creates satisfaction in self so i’m certain i’m a better mother. all in all, i feel closer to god.
Regarding your rough cut for “Come Forth”-
Is this the official title? and Who did the music?
officially, the title is “raising lazarus,” an allusion to the biblical story christ’s raising of a dead man. we wanted to revisit the story with christ’s decree that we all could do even greater works than he. many folk are stuck in praising and not living out the mission to move mountains and such. in the film, the Woman reminds the Man of the power of “writing spells” as a means to awaken sleep folk. Stephen Perez of [evolv audio] did the music and god bless him, he’s a master of the ambient. the Woman reminds the Man (played by artist, Cedric Umoja) of the power of “writing spells” as a means to awaken sleep folk. the large-scale, free form lettering is something Cedric has been employing in his work for a while. that magic isn’t always legible, but it’s real and makes an impact on the consciousness of a place.
You’re a Mommy….What are 3 important things you believe parents should instill within their children? and what things do you aim to nurture in your children?
i am a mommy, have been since age 20. i believe in exposing your children to what you know and what you are learning. my daughter will not have to pay $150,000 to learn art history, graphic design, film, editing, etc. She knows what I know and more because she learned it along the way and brings a naturalness to creating that i don’t even have. we need to return to having our children at our sides while we work so that they are apprentices and not robots raised in a system designed to have them build others’ dreams. also, children need truth. if uncle so-and-so is in jail, take them…visit him. talk to them about your mistakes, your humanity so that generational curses can be lifted and we can evolve. most of all, children need to see love. feel love. i am not with either of my childrens’ fathers, it wasn’t my intention for that to be the case, but i have surrounded them by loving relationships of all kinds. they have an auntie network that is unshakable and i have a loving relationship that allows them to experience what a mature, growth-based relationship is about.
Do you think it is important for Black people to use creativity to bring forth change?
it’s all we got. we must make something out of what we have. got dirt, build on it. we have been busy seeking to attain what “they” have and have ignored that they are busy trying to get to the soul of what we are. creators.
What are your thoughts on the term Afrofuturism?
our past is sci-fi all day! we been on this. i create from a place where the people can fly and the future is all in the verb “to be.” to embody an afro-future, we need only remember and manifest that sirius-b, dance magic. #dogon #yoruba #geechee #native #indigenousthangs to hashtag a few
Name a couple things you’d love to change about the world with a snap of your fingers.
hmmm. can ice cream not create health problems??? cause i love ice cream. change created with a snap might not stick so maybe i’d snap to restore memory of past live lessons. i think. lol
On what projects are you currently working?
Grace: The Feature…it’s the next big thing i’m working on. Here’s the link for folks to like for updates: https://www.facebook.
Finally – What makes you a Magical Negro?
i am my mother and father’s child. they were, so i am. sum. total. all.