Skip to content Skip to footer

For artist Jessi Jumanji, Black History Month is everyday

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” – Audre Lorde

If there is any creative nowadays who embodies writer, vanguard, activist Audre Lorde’s message on self-preservation as a means of political warfare, it is artist Jessi Jumanji.

She is a rebel, she is an activist, and, like Lorde, she understands that it’s not our differences that divide us.


View this post on Instagram


Find your light 💡

A post shared by ARTIST JESSI JUMANJI 🎨🦁🐯🐼 (@jessijumanji) on

It’s our unwillingness to step into each other’s skin, to listen to the palpable but ineffable stories that we are afraid of sharing, and to understand that we aren’t “who” we are in ourselves alone, but in our interconnectedness to past and present.

For Jumanji, her journey to discovering her sense of space in the world might have been even more complicated than for most people. In part, it is because her identity is extraordinarily multi-faceted.

She is a woman, she is gay, she is black, and it is her blackness that she is especially proud of because it informs every part of herself.

It reminds her, too, as she does her research on African history and spreads her message to her fans worldwide, that she is as much a student as she is a teacher, and that there is a humbling power in that realization.

Jessi Jumanji
“AfroFission” digital collage by @jessijumanji

“A teacher is just a student who learned how to learn. Every day that I learn, I have to learn more about what that means and how to convey it,” she said.

“Most of my artwork is 90 percent research and 10 percent doing things. When I am not studying, I am not creating. Anytime I reach a creative block, it’s because I am not reading and am not immersing myself in learning. And so, I just became a teacher by chance, by way of being a student.” 

To some, being called “black” feels diminishing and disrespectful, for it shouldn’t be that others judge another by anything besides character, integrity, decency.

But for her, acknowledging and delving into the story of her “blackness” is empowering.  To her, her “blackness” is the embodiment of quite literally the universe.

Jessi Jumanji
”Black Madonna & Golden Child” x“Earth, Sun, Moon” by @jessijumanji

It emerges in its utmost purity, sometimes it meets its most awful obstacles, gets back up, stumbles a little more, gets back up again, and thrives as long as it believes not only in itself but in its origins, its history that merged to inspire its wholeness.

“Even black [as a color] is an embodiment of every single color on the spectrum,” said Jumanji.

“Over time, we’ve been conditioned to feel small, but to be black to me means to be always expanding, always growing — because everything grows out of darkness.” 

Everything grows out of darkness, just let yourself take that in; everything grows out of darkness.

A misconception from which she recoils is that “you can’t be black and educated, and also enjoy things that society deems as [more so entertaining than educational].”

As someone who works on current and pop culture, she wants people to understand that the experience of “blackness” covers a wide spectrum and that every part should be celebrated — from the so-called “stereotypical” impoverished beginnings to the “six-figure” success stories.

It’s tougher, reasonably tough, to tell someone else, of a completely different identity,  about one’s experience as a black person than it is to show it to them.

Often that power in showing versus telling makes a notable change, and the subtleties of feelings associated with complicated stories can be extracted through art, always.

“We need to celebrate from nothing to something,” she said.

“Everything that we do is valuable. So, it’s my job to find the positives in the negatives, and make them celebrate it.”

One of the most profound revelations, too, that she has had is that even in a country as big as America, there is a nation of black people in its own essence, and that nation is made up of tribes, tribes that we’ve been conditioned to associate with negativity because they presumed “connotative” of the ghetto.

Here, we call them “gangs” or “squads” and our over-conditioned psyches many a time neglect each tribe’s dances, songs, chants. We neglect that somewhere in Africa, there are yet similar dances, songs, chants.

We neglect that so much of that negatively-perceived identity of “blackness” is rooted in African history, in the many African ancestors who endured slavery and oppression and still came out of it all beautiful and brilliant.

Jumanji finds her deepest inspiration precisely when she channels her ancestors. She feels that when she works on her art, they work through her, too. Her ability to self-preserve helps keep her ancestors’  plights and triumphs alive.

“I like to surround myself with like-minded people. I feel a lot of time by myself, but I am also very intentional about how and with whom I share my space,” she explained.

“The biggest people who guide me are actually the ancestors themselves because so much of my research is rooted in history. When I read and when I learn about the stories of all these different people and what they have done and overcome throughout time, it’s more inspiration than I’ll ever need.”

She has influenced numerous like-minded people in places outside of America and Africa as well, such as the U.K., Australia, South America, and some of her work was published in Denmark’s University of Copenhagen’s gender and research journal.

Still, while it seems like her work ethic just keeps growing, for she is working on a documentary about herself and her ancestry, her biggest advice to creatives feels reassuring and much-needed in today’s world. 

To get the most out of one’s artistry requires the kind of spiritual energy that one cannot receive without rest and reflection.

A deep, insightful reflection on what it means to know “who” one is, and for those hesitant about the magic of their “blackness,” what it means to experience their history for what it is. 

That might just be the secret ingredient to embracing one another’s differences. 

Jessi Jumanji Art
AfroGeology series a digital collage by @jessijumanji

“It’s always good to restore your energy so that you have the energy to put out. So, to any creative, make sure that you are integrating rest and self-care into your process in this way,” she advised.

“Don’t set your goals against what someone else is accomplishing. Move at your own pace. Be diligent and intentional about every move that you make so that you don’t waste energy. And be insightful about everything you do.”


View this post on Instagram


“Back against the wall, I discovered I was a work of art..” 🖼 -Jessi Jumanji

A post shared by ARTIST JESSI JUMANJI 🎨🦁🐯🐼 (@jessijumanji) on

To see more of Jumanji’s artworks click here.