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Reimagine Seattle: Eliaichi Kimaro

The challenges of the past two years have changed the way we live, the way we work, and the way we show up for each other. They have also given us a rare chance to collectively reimagine our future. Through the Reimagine Seattle Storytelling Project we invite community members to reflect on their current experiences in Seattle, how they have been impacted by recent events, and their hopes for the future of our city.

Art as Resistance

by Eliaichi Kimaro

I’ve been reflecting on the role of art in my life this past year. As a queer, mixed race, black-skinned daughter of immigrants ~ and as a mom with a daughter starting high school ~ carving out time to get into the studio each day is saving me and keeping me sane.

abstract painting on wood panel
Eliaichi Kimaro
Where Justice Meets Joy (2020)
Oil & pastel on 36”x 36” wood panel

I started this painting on Valentine’s Day ~ in the Time Before. This piece saw me through the shutting down of life as we know it due to the global COVID pandemic. I learned that fire tornados and murder hornets are real things. I weathered cancelled openings and events and missed graduations and family gatherings. As the world stood still, I bore witness to the brutal slayings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Michael Ramos, Dreasjon Reed, Tony McDade, David McAtee, Carlos Carson. And I found inspiration in the youth-led uprising that fueled the protests and demands for justice in the months that followed.

Out in the world, I was confronted with, and witnessed, oppressive hatred aimed at eradicating all that I embody and love. In my 20s, the energy of these encounters would have ignited the righteous anger that fueled my activism. Now that I am just shy of 50, I find that anger, even when it’s righteous, is no longer a generative power source for me. Instead, it drains me, shuts me down and closes me off.

My focus this past year has been refusing to allow this groundswell of hatred, willful ignorance, and fear-mongering to diminish the essence of my humanity. Choosing to come from a place of beauty, compassion, accountability, generosity, resilience, and joy is an act of radical love. I believe this gritty, robust, eyes-wide-open love is the root of liberation. My resistance meant daring to believe that the world through my eyes, as a queer Black woman, is relevant and beautiful and worthy of consideration.

Instead of absorbing the caustic energy, I poured my rage, fear, and grief into this painting. After eight months, the energy gave way to something new and surprising. Out of many layers of pain emerged a vision of a world where justice and joy coincide. The painting was offering me a vision of liberation that was deeply seeded in this radical kind of love.

This year has taught me three things about the role of art in my life:

1. Art is my portal to Liberation.

2. Making art is how I convert energy into matter.

3. Art is no longer an ‘if I have time’ matter. It has become as integral to my well-being as my daily writing practice. It is a must. It helps me repair and restore the parts of my soul that are beyond the reach of words.

Eliaichi Kimaro, with short hair and glasses, standing outside
Eliaichi Kimaro makes art to locate where she stands in the flow of cultural inheritance and legacy. A self-taught artist, Eliaichi will learn whatever medium it takes to tell the story that is emerging. Over the past 40 years, she has used writing, music, photography, film, storytelling, and now visual art to explore her personal/family narrative. Her feature film A LOT LIKE YOU (2011) won six Best Documentary Awards on the film festival circuit before being broadcast nationally on PBS. After nine years on the campus/conference lecture circuit, Eliaichi distilled her keynotes in her 2016 TEDxSeattle talk “Why the World Needs Your Story.” Across every medium, Eliaichi finds beauty in the rusty, weathered and worn. She loves the stories that scars hold ~ and feels compelled to take those stories of survival, and turn them into something beautiful to behold.

Submissions for the Reimagine Seattle Storytelling Project were commissioned by the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. The opinions expressed and information contained in each submission do not necessarily reflect the policies, plans, beliefs, conclusions, or ideas, of the City of Seattle.