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Studio Znabu

Zainab Sumu

Woven fibers and Paintings

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art by somerville artistZainabSumu titledJadba
Jadba Large natural round reed, large smoked reed, small natural round reed, reclaimed leather strips, fur 27 x 25 21 in. / 68.58 x 63.5 x 53.34 cm
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Artist's Statement

“Forms, shapes, lines, textures, and the simplicity of building by hand fascinate me.”

Raised in the bustling city of Freetown and the verdant vistas of Kono in Sierra Leone, Zainab Sumu takes inspiration from her travels through Africa, Europe, and the United States to create her unique woven fiber sculptures, sculptural couture, and paintings. 

“I record sublime moments: my interaction with Bintou, the Fulani lady that invited me to her family compound and shared with me her love for textiles. The meditative experience of watching an elderly craftswoman in Dogon joyously spin cotton.”

She focuses her craft on handiwork, using materials and forms of construction that require prolonged work with her hands. Twinning, coiling, knotting, weaving, and braiding are all incorporated physically in her sculptures and thematically in her paintings. 

“So much of life is within one’s hands, they are our life’s creative source. No matter the technological advances, people continue to rely on their hands.”

“I use color, texture, and silhouette in my interpretation. My historical reportage aims to invite the audience to participate in the sensorial experience of the mundane that never fades away.”

Her lived experience from Freetown and Kono, to Paris and London, to Los Angeles and Cambridge informs her worldview and multidisciplinary body of artwork. 

“This worldview is one of beauty that’s found across cultures and genres, that elects a response and that has power to unify us all.”

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