Samora Pinderhughes inspires learning, growth through multimedia exhibition “The Healing Project”

Photo of Healing Project
YBCA/Courtesy

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Samora Pinderhughes doesn’t want to just talk about structural violence. He wants to pave new avenues toward change.

In his multimedia exhibition “The Healing Project,” currently on display at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Pinderhughes marries different visual and sonic mediums in a prismatic reflection of resilience amid hardship. Rather than casting a single light, he projects a constellation of physical and virtual spaces: the exhibition, the album GRIEF and a digital archive of the installation. Through it all, he actively grapples with racism, incarceration and the systemic ills of capitalism.

“The Healing Project” is not designed to move through quickly. Rather, it requires patience and thoughtful meditation. Cassette players line the entryway into the central space, accompanied by a selection of audio tapes featuring firsthand interviews on the lived experiences of structural violence. Next to the tapes sits a coffee table with books on racism and abolition, encouraging active learning through various artistic mediums. 

Hung across various walls in the gallery, woven creations by fiber artist Nnaemeka Ekwelum enliven the space. Using plastic lacing, or gimp, and miscellaneous materials, he weaves each “grief cloth” on site, responding to his environment and imbuing a distinctive spirit into each individual piece. Even as Ekwelum’s creations remain fixed, they pulse with life. They texture the walls with palpable energy, lending to the atmosphere of quiet, conscious reflection. 

At the heart of “The Healing Project” lies the spirit of community and collaboration. In anticipation for the exhibit, artist and revolutionary organizer Peter Mukuria, also known as Pitt Panther, sent weekly illustrations to Pinderhughes, which are now displayed in the central room. Currently incarcerated in Virginia, Mukuria crafts his creations with the scarce materials available to him, such as bed sheets and clothing. In a moving portrait, Mukuria displays George Floyd’s face in black, white and orange, memorializing the late figure on crinkled paper. Making the case for abolition, Pinderhughes extracts glimmers of beauty from the interiors of the American prison system, highlighting incarcerated voices in the process. 

Extending from the central space, The Sound Room loops through interviews centered on themes of violence, abolition and healing. Cast in a deep blue light, it obscures the visual senses and foregrounds the power of language. As the disembodied voices reverberate through the room, original music gently accompanies their stories, soothing listeners in this open and honest space. 

Alternatively, the adjacent room confronts viewers with a long hall cast in red lighting. At the end of the path, two stools sit before a pair of television screens projecting “SameGang,” a video project produced by Pinderhughes, Josh Befley and Shantina Washington. Cutting between clips from “The Wolf of Wall Street, music by Kanye West, footage of wildfires and interviews with the late Nipsey Hussle, the two screens juxtapose seemingly unlike visuals in order to subvert Black stereotypes in popular culture. Built upon the slogan “everything you say about me is what you do,” “SameGang” urges viewers to wrestle with uncomfortable truths. 

In the final room, a large screen projects a series of original films that explore pain and selfhood. In “MASCULINITY,” Pinderhughes holds up a mirror to the world, but he starts with himself. Incorporating footage from his childhood, he effectively disassembles social constructions of gender. Meanwhile, “MASCULINITY,” the first single from GRIEF, plays in the background with Pinderhughes’ delicate voice dancing through the difficulty. Though part of a standalone release, his original music serves as an important companion to the physical exhibition. At the center of the gallery sits the piano Pinderhughes played during his Tiny Desk Concert, an important reminder that art, in whatever form it takes, possesses the power to move and to heal. 

Through his purposeful engagement of various mediums, Pinderhughes centers and amplifies the voices of the silenced, creating living spaces where individuals can grapple with endemic violence. In doing so, he encourages participants to move through the pain, and he invites all to partake in revolutionary change.

Lauren Harvey covers music. Contact her at [email protected].