Artist Depicts Black Female Nudes as Ancient Egyptian Goddesses

Joshua Sessoms' drawn symbolism seeks to inspire and heal through legendary history.

by Antwaun Sargent
29 March 2016, 7:55pm

Joshua Sessoms, Bastet, 2015, Pastel, Colored Pencil and Charcoal, 14x17. All images courtesy of the artist.

This article contains adult content. 

Over the last two years, artist Joshua Sessoms has developed a drawing practice that focuses on blending Ancient Egyptian symbolism with contemporary portraits. Sessoms has turned to history to create images that present what he sees as addressing the deficiency of diverse images in a Eurocentric visual culture. Sessoms’s collection of drawings, Ritual Spirit, presents contemporary representations of black women laced with religious iconography dating back to the Second Dynasty.

“I’ve always been interested in ancient history because it speaks to where we are as a people and culture,” explains Sessoms to The Creators Project. He says, “What I wanted to do is try to keep the [ancient] culture alive by relating it to current times.” Sessoms sees his drawings as a way to “put a more truthful images out there that strengthen our cultural narrative.”

Het-Heru and Tefnut, 2015, Pastel, Colored Pencil and Charcoal, 18x24"

In Sessoms’ drawing Bastet, he personifies the anthropomorphic Kemetic deity, who, in ancient Egyptian civilization embodied the principles of love and music. The figurative drawings Het-Heru and Tefnut depicts Sessoms’ modern take on goddess Het-Heru, who was believed to be the source of energy, alongside Tefnut, the goddess who represented both spirituality and sexuality. The drawing Nebethet, who represented earthly consciousness in Egyptian mythology, also seeks to connect the cultural lineage of Africa to the present experience of African-Americans.

Nebethet, 2015, Colored Pencil and Charcoal, 18x24"

In Ritual Spirit, a falcon sits on the knee of a woman inspired by a Ptolemaic period sculpture. The falcon embodied enlightenment in Ancient Egypt. According to Sessoms, the Nile crocodile, Sobek, that is also found in the portrait at the figure’s feet symbolizes a sense of strong femininity.

“Right now, we just have one particular image in the media of suffering on a physical level as far as police brutality is concerned,” says Sessoms of his motivation behind Ritual Spirit. “I just wanted to show our dignity through our rich cultural history. We are more versatile than one particular image and I want my images to inspire people to look deeper into where we are in modern times and remind them of the fact that they can draw upon history.” He adds, “A lot of these drawings have scientific references to medicine and healing. I use symbolism because it speaks to the more subtle parts of our nature as human beings.”

Spirit, 2016, Colored Pencil,18x24"

Metamorphosis, 2015, Colored Pencil, 18x24"

For more information about the artist, click here.


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