Nalla Roberts will receive her Bachelor’s of Art in Art from Valdosta State University where she has focused her creative talents in the areas of graphic design, sculpture, and jewelry making. Roberts uses her work to discuss such subject matter as her views about black culture, and more specifically, social justice/criticism. Through her multidisciplinary work, Nalla engages the audience to see her views through the eyes of a black woman and to question areas of things such as hair, navigating through life when you are seen as an “other”, and safety. She wants to show off her culture because many are taught not to through microaggressions, hair discrimination, and more. Making jewelry about natural hair helps the viewer understand how hair is a form of adornment. Styling and grooming the hair is a form of self-care and intimacy that has always been important to black women. Jewelry is worn in the hair as a form of expression. Roberts will be pursuing graphic design and eventually own a small hair jewelry business.
I make work inspired by black people because black people are legally discriminated against for a large part of their identity and self-care, I felt it important to showcase the beauty of this one aspect of blackness. Whether it be the making of rings and pendants that reflect the twists, braids, and afros, it is important that these items be seen for what exactly they are to me, adornment. Using my identity as a young black woman, I feel it is necessary to make more art about issues facing the black community. I use my interest in graphic design and its opportunity to be seen by the masses to create an infographic about defunding the police. Through education, I can help raise awareness of police brutality against black people. The summer of 2020 brought more people a better understanding of how I and many others feel. The way people perceive my skin color makes me a target to them. I should not be afraid of people who swore to “protect and serve”. Listening to George Floyd’s 8 minute and 46 second pleading for his life made this more personal than ever before, reopening many wounds I gained growing up. Acting in a way that will not be seen as aggressive should not be my burden to carry as someone with human rights. With many people justifying the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, and too many others, I felt I had a responsibility. This was bigger than the conversation about interactions with police my mother had with me. To convey my frustration with the loss of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, I repeated their names, recalling Black Lives Matter protests. As we learn and acknowledge our past, we can make changes in the present and progress our future.
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