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Celebrated Muralist Georgie Nakima Expands Her Palette

A young Black woman sitting on a colorful sculpture wearing a sweater dress and white sneakers
Local muralist Georgie Nakima sits on her sculpture at Charlotte’s East Town Market.

By 2020, muralist Georgie Nakima had created an impactful presence in Charlotte with colorful public art, which seamlessly fuses representations of Black women with the natural world and spiraling geometric shapes. 

Nakima’s work was set to branch out with Kindred, a community-focused public installation in west Charlotte that joined Nakima’s mural work with workshops and art experiences where the public was invited to contribute. Queen City Nerve wrote about the project in late February 2020, then the COVID pandemic ground the process to a halt.

While Nakima’s community installation was placed on pause, she personally continued to work along other tracks and take on new challenges, including sculpture, digital images and museum projects.

“I’m normally working on installations before an area even opens,” she explains. “I was still able to continue on my projects and stay busy.” 

The often-solitary life of an artist, however, did not dissuade her from finding connection. 

“Twenty-twenty was the year our eyes opened to what was around us,” Nakima says. “We realized how integrated our lives truly were. We understood how important the arts were.”

Despite a worldwide slow down, Nakima’s 2021 was marked by hustle and bustle — and a professional profile expanding beyond the Carolinas. She contributed her mural Alchemy at BLKOUT Walls Mural Festival in Detroit, Michigan. A subsequent project took her to Rhode Island, resulting in “Salt Water,” a massive 4,000-square-foot mural depicting and balancing two Black women.

“[‘Salt Water’] is a reflection of the times,” Nakima says. “It represents feminine energy, sisterhood and a bond of closeness.”

That year also marked the appearance of Nakima’s first venture into three-dimensional art, a sculpture called “Mwanzo,” a Swahili word that means new beginnings. The interactive piece, which suggests a diamond-shaped multi-hued chair, is a permanent installation at Charlotte’s East Town Market at the corner of North Sharon Amity and Milton roads.

Next, Nakima was invited to present an exhibit in The Discover District in Dallas, Texas. She assembled close to 20 pieces and called the collection “To the Constellations of Ancestors That Live in Our Bones, Thank You.” The exhibit was also mounted at Charlotte’s Mint Museum in Uptown. There, museum-goers could marvel at Nakima’s cache of murals, kaleidoscopic shards of color that serve as immersive metaphors for her perspective on art and life.

Coinciding with the Constellation exhibit in Texas, Nakima says she was invited to contribute to Black Future Makers, an Afrofuturism-themed campaign for Black History Month 2022. For the digital project, Nakima worked with photos of 32 forward-facing Black luminaries, artists, creators and shakers, including herself, that were honored by the campaign. Nakima then integrated the portraits into a background. It was her first foray into the digital world.

“It was definitively a big exercise to stretch my eye,” she says. “I considered myself very analog, but I think it’s important to break out of molds that we hold for ourselves, and to continue learning.”

Currently, Nakima is returning to Kindred, the public interactive art installation that was put on pause in 2020. The revived project culminates with a multidisciplinary festival called “Come as You Are” at Atrium Health on Beatties Ford Road on Oct. 22.

A colorful, circular portrait of a mysterious yet powerful Black woman flanked by geometric shapes
Earth Keeper by muralist Georgie Nakima sits above the lobby in the Gantt Center.

Nakima’s most high-profile current piece, however, is a mural entitled Earth Keeper that she created for the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. 

The circular portrait of a mysterious yet powerful Black woman flanked by geometric shapes sits above the museum’s grand lobby.

“This is [the Gantt’s] first permanent mural installation,” Nakima says. 

She hopes it will be the first of many, a further dissolving of the unnecessary barrier between street art and curated art.

“I think museums like the Mint and the Gantt are realizing that it’s important to involve what’s happening around them, and right now Charlotte is electrified by murals and public art.”

As Nakima’s visibility increases, she promises to increase the visibility of Black women in her work.

“I want there to be a relatability, where people can see and understand themselves because they feel represented,” Nakima offers. 

She vows to be a visual translator of our times while finding new ways to present her vision.

“My work is always going to change, but my why is going to remain the same,” Nakima says.

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