Inspired by life’s experiences, Iman Essiet is using her gift of art and passion for activism to bring Black people across the nation closer together.
Raised in Bed-Stuy, Essiet grew up in a family of artists. Her mother and brother are award-winning illustrators, and her sister is a fashion designer. Essiet was sure she’d follow a different path than her family but somehow couldn’t resist her calling.
“Sometimes we try to run from the very thing that’s going to deliver us out of certain situations, and I use to run from the gift of being an artist and creative,” said Essiet. “I’ve embraced the fact that I am surrounded by art, and art is for a reason and have I received the fact that I am an artist.”
Much of Essiet’s art can be found at the Nationhood pop-up shop, a monthly event she helps host that serves as an inspirational fixture in the community for Black creatives.
Held at Sistas’ Place in Brooklyn, Nationhood, as described by Essiet, is a “social initiative that brings people of the African diaspora together.” She believes that the pop-up shop plays a significant role in bringing people of color closer together by providing an outlet for visual artists, musical artists and conscious rappers and opening up a dialogue to better understanding each other’s piece of African culture.
“It’s very important, especially in this hour for all of us to come together as a united people knowing that we all have Africa in common,” said Essiet.
Along with being an artist, Essiet is also a full time activist, to which she credits much of her creativity. Her current “Remember” collection, which holds the images of the African continent, is a reminder for Black people to remember where they came from.
“We must remember the greatness that we came from and the greatness of the continent and knowing that us as Black people, we all have Africa in common,” said Essiet.
As a new member of the December 12th Movement, Essiet says she got involved because the movement is not only a prominent fixture in her community but also played a major role in the Civil Rights Movement in the New York City area.
“As a New Yorker it is very important to be a part of such an amazing legacy of heroes and legends that did the work,” said Essiet. “It’s just great to sit under a lot of elders who have that background of what the movement is about.”
Because her activism is tied heavily to her art, Essiet’s “Remember” collection carries her message well. She stresses the importance of remembering the work of our ancestors and recognizing how they paved the way. She also wants people to be awakened to the truth of what’s actually going on in society today.
“I want us to wake up and remember who we are,” said Essiet. “We have a right to be a self-determined people. We have a right to protect ourselves against our oppressors. We don’t have to take whatever’s given to us.”
Essiet describes her art as “wearable self-expression.” She doesn’t stick to one type of canvas and can be found hand-painting on T-shirts, leather or any other canvas she feels inspired to use.
Essiet says art has been a healer for her and has helped her cope with all that is going on in the world. She encourages young artists to stick with their path despite the many stigmas that come with being an artist.
“Everybody’s walk with art is not going to be your walk with art, so you have to find what your path in art is, stick with it and trust it enough,” said Essiet.
Essiet hopes to take her art and message to predominantly Black cities such as Chicago and Detroit, HBCUs and other Black nations throughout the world in hopes of all Blacks coming together as one nation.
To learn more about Essiet and her art, visit imanthebrand.bigcartel.com or her Instagram @Imanthebrand. Also, the next Nationhood pop-up will be Oct. 9 from noon to 6 p.m.