Category Storytelling

In Conversation With Kahame Msiska

Kahame Msiska at Union Station

Art is a powerful tool of expression. The hopes we have in the past can shape our futures. The ability to create something new or better depends on our ability to imagine it. These ideas and the prompt of what it means to dream while Black are at the core of Union Station’s newest exhibit, Black Dreams and Aspirations, sponsored by TD, co-curated in partnership with MakeRoom Inc. 

We were delighted to speak with Kahame Msiska, one of the artists for the exhibit, about what Black Dreams and Aspirations means to him. His featured artwork, entitled Amaka, represents the strength found in solitude and the power of being grounded. The qualities that Kahame’s muse, Nyong, embodies in this photograph – grace, beauty and bravery – are a reminder that Black history predates the recent traumas of slavery and colonization. 

What was the inspiration behind your art showcased in the Black Dreams and Aspirations exhibit? 

The inspiration behind every piece I create goes far back into my childhood, my parent’s childhood, and all the way back to our ancestors, and flows through me every day. I dream about these things every night, and I pull ideas out of my dreams. The day I took the image showcased in the Black Dreams and Aspirations exhibit was a very regular day, but then something hit me. The sun was shining on my best friend’s skin. I went inside to get the camera and was going to take a few pictures of him for fun. But then it slowly started building. I went back in to get the orange cloth and put it around him. We started placing different body shapes and landed at a place which sparked a feeling of strength. A strength in being vulnerable. A strength in being solid and grounded. This is what the piece is about, and why I named it Amaka – which means strength in my language, Bemba. The piece is about the strength in being vulnerable, which is why his eyes are closed and his chest is open, ready for whatever. 

What message or emotion do you hope viewers take away from experiencing your artwork? 

I want African people all over the world to remember who they are. I want them to return home in their hearts, in their mind, and in their spirit. And home can be just who you truly are as a person. I want this for everybody in the world. I speak more on African people because in my lifetime, I have grown into loving my skin and appreciating myself. I want to give this to other people – appreciate yourself, appreciate your roots, go back home to who you really are. 

What inspired you to become an artist and how does your identity influence your work? 

I’m the last born of 5 siblings, so I’m an amalgamation of all their personalities. My mom is great with fashion – she’s an artist in that sense. My dad used to play in a band. All my siblings have this energy about them and are unique in their own way. My wife’s a DJ. My best friend is a model. This all fed into who I am today. That’s where I draw my inspiration from. I’m glad to have these people in my life every day. 

How do you think that art has the power to inspire change in society? 

I think art is the point. The answer. There is so much emotion that goes into creating art, and the artist gives themselves completely. The best work that I make is when I’m completely in the moment and vulnerable, and not trying to think too much outside of myself. I think that’s a good philosophy for life too: be in the moment, be open, don’t think too far outside of yourself, and then you can be the best for everyone around you. Art reminds me to keep doing that. 

Kahame Msiska at Union Station
Thank you, Kahame, for taking the time to speak with us about your artwork showcased in the Black Dreams and Aspirations exhibit. You can find Kahame’s art in the West Wing of Union Station from now until May. Stop by today to experience it yourself. 

Click here for more information about Union’s Black History Month exhibit.