This Is Ajani
Ajani Elyse is an artist based in Durham, North Carolina. She uses African American tradition of magical surrealist folklore to understand the throughlines between historical and contemporary processes of creating identity.
In her work, Ajani uses graphite, charcoal and acrylic paint to create and re-tell folktales. Portraits bearing attributes of prominent Black folklore characters--such as rabbits, foxes, and birds--are suspended in indistinct backgrounds, allowing for figures to exist in the liminal space between historical reality or future possibilities. By crafting new folktales, they intertwine folkloric themes of human origin, navigating oppression, and finding identity in the natural world with contemporary experiences of Blackness, queerness, and memory. In embracing magic and spiritualism as tools for understanding the self, Ajani imagines a new space for transformative identity-creation.
Ajani Elyse earned their B.A. in Art History and African American Diaspora Studies from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. They have exhibited in NC State African American Cultural Center, and FRANK Gallery.