The Brooklyn-based poet and artist talks about the kudzu plant as a metaphor for Blackness and resilience
This article is taken from the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine:
“When I was younger my family drove to Georgia from the Midwest and I saw the kudzu plant – a climbing, trailing vine – for the first time, creeping over everything. It was brought to America from Japan after slavery was abolished – the US government gave it to Southern farmers to regenerate soil after overplanting cotton, but the kudzu just took over. It was a non-native plant, transported to a new ecosystem, then deemed dangerous, racialised and now criminalised as invasive in the US. But what does it mean to be ‘invasive’? Just to survive well? Kudzu makes me think of Blackness and resilience. I planted it as part of a show in Frankfurt just before lockdown. When I came back five months later, the kudzu had escaped the room and was crawling out the window. It was beautiful. A lot of my work is about our entanglement with nature, how there’s no separation and that it’s hubristic to even think so.”
Precious Okoyomon is a Nigerian-American poet and artist living in Brooklyn. They plant gardens as part of their art practice. An 18-month commission at Aspen Art Museum is currently in full bloom, with Okoyomon transforming the garden from season to season and letting it run free: “I’m often thinking about the earth overthrowing the world in this very soft, resilient way.” The recipient of the 2021 Frieze Artist Award, they are also one-third of the experimental cooking collective Spiral Theory Test Kitchen, which makes culinary sculptures out of unexpected and organic materials. This year, Okoyomon will release their second poetry collection – But Did U Die?, published by Serpentine Galleries and Wonder Press – poems they liken to prayers and rituals, “long poems I’ve been writing with people I love”.
Hair: Mikey Tubolino. Make-up: Kuma at Streeters. Photographic assistant: Trevor Munch. Styling assistant: Cathleen Peters. Production: Mini Title