Aaron Marner’s painting, “Beloved,” was inspired by the passing of his mother. “A lot of my pieces are about my journey with my mother and my family.” (Photo by Sierra Alvarez/Cronkite News)

March 7, 2023

Sierra Alvarez

Black artists connect family, culture and history

Black art is the great connector – of humanity, of Black history, of family, culture and a vision of life’s value and purpose, according to several Arizona Black artists who paint, sculpt and create visual works.

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“Well, it’s just a fight for freedom it seems we keep having to do,” said Rhonda Carter, known as Shakur, whose works – whether of Harriet Tubman or of a Black woman with a wondrous, adorned Afro – portrays history and the present.

Shakur, who lives and works in Avondale, is among Black artists who were featured at the Arts HQ Gallery in Surprise during Black History Month.

Rhonda “Shakur” Carter said personal struggles and joy influenced her artwork – she’s been homeless and in and out of foster homes. “That’s my love is creating art and that inspired me to keep going,” Shakur said. “In my earlier years my daughter inspired everything. I got shot at 17 and didn’t think I could have babies but here she came along. I called her my gift.” (Photo by Sierra Alvarez/Cronkite News)

Gedion Nyanhongo, a sculptor who was born in Zimbabwe, Africa, says his art reflects his culture.

“I would like to say this is a universal language which connects us all, it connects all cultures together,” said Nyanhongo, who has participated in the Celebration of Fine Art in Scottsdale for 17 years.

Aaron Marner, a mixed-media artist, painter and muralist, wields acrylics, oil and spray paint to tell stories. Marner travels often from his studio in Scottsdale to California.

“I definitely put my emotions and everything I’m dealing with into my work,” Marner said.

His latest artwork was inspired by his mother and his journey to reconcile with her death.

“Right before Christmas my mother passed away and it left me in a weird space and this is what I created after that. It’s kind of like a tribute to her,” Marner said.

Creatives and researchers have studied the ability of art to help heal those who create it or engage with it.

Phillip Collins, who founded the platform Good Black Art to connect emerging artists to buyers, found “collecting art was healing and transformative,” according to a February article by Folasade Ologundudu in the journal Untapped.