Nina Simone / Amman Desai

Nina Simone

Nina Simone

Amman Desai
Nina Simone

I chose to make a print of Nina Simone for several reasons: 1) I wanted to honor a Queer artist who has deeply influenced me, 2) I wanted to bring Nina Simone’s queerness to the forefront of the conversation that has been markedly silent on her bisexuality, and 3) I wanted to honor the significance of Black art and Black resistance movements in the U.S. Hence, this print draws its lineage from the political posters of the 60’s and 70’s (an era featuring many social movements that Nina, herself, was engaged in), while featuring the artistic styles of India, Liberia, and Ghana. (Nina visited and would later, at some point, call the latter two her home). Sankofa, the Akan symbol that has had special significance to the African diaspora in this country, also makes an appearance as the bird looking backwards. The symbol is often associated with the proverb, “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten,” which to me, invigorates so much of what the Queer Ancestors Project is about.

The Queer Ancestors Project

The Queer Ancestors Project is devoted to forging sturdy relationships between LGBTQI people and our ancestors. Using history as a linchpin, we build community by providing Queer and Trans artists, age 18 to 26, free interdisciplinary workshops in printmaking, writing, and Queer history. Public exhibitions and readings of their work provide a window on the past through which the larger community can glimpse our collective future.

The LGBTQI community has a limited visual record, or none at all, of significant Queer events before the 1970s, particularly in the histories of Queers of color and transgender people. This lack of imagery makes it harder for LGBTQI people to connect with, learn from, and be inspired by our history. Just as photographs from your early life help to anchor personal memories, a visual record – even an imagined one – can bring historical events to life, creating the kind of indelible connection that enables us to engage deeply with our ancestors.