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108 Death Masks: A Communal Prayer for Peace and Justice

Nikesha Breeze's avatar Nikesha Breeze

108 Death Masks: A Communal Prayer for Peace and Justice by Nikesha Breeze, is a series of 108 individually hand-sculpted clay masks, created one at a time, in honor of the countless lives lost in black, brown and indigenous communities around the world, due to systematic racial violence and oppression. Each face was sculpted out of the imagination of the artist, with no photos, models, or casting mechanisms. The individual and unique faces of each mask were created in a state of prayer, and ancestral honoring, as the artist attempted to imagine the faces and wounds, stories and histories, of her own erased generations due to American slavery. Viewers are invited to take a moment to feel at once, the endlessness of the struggle faced by communities of color, as lives are still being lost to racial violence on a daily basis, and to experience each mask “face to face” as an act of human compassion, connection and recognition of black death worldwide. Drawing upon deeply rooted African-American and Assyrian-Iranian heritage, the artist entered into a meditation with 108 of her own unknown, unnamed ancestral spirits. The faces themselves are quiet and still, children, elders, mothers, fathers, sick, healthy, broken, half formed, deformed, beaten, and buried, each face reminding us of our own mortality, humanity and fragility. The number, 108, is considered sacred in many cultures and religious teachings. The artist individually hand-carved 108 death masks as an act of prayer for her ancestors, whose lives and stories were lost to systemic racism, each face was sculpted from leather hard and beaten clay slabs, as a prayer for those who suffered and still suffer from violent oppression. From colonization and forced migration, to slavery and lynching, to the current state of police brutality and mass incarceration, black, brown and indigenous bodies have been the targets of the largest war on a people this planet has ever known. These death masks, become portals into the shared wound and the continued resilience that lives and breathes in people of color today. As viewers participate, they join in the communal prayer to end systematic racist violence targeting communities of color worldwide. 108 masks, 108 moments of silence, 108 prayers for peace, justice and the end of systematic racist violence and oppression across the globe. _____________________________________________________________________________ Nikesha Breeze is an African American/Assyrian, emerging interdisciplinary artist, painter, sculptor, performance artist and teacher. Here is what she says about her work and being an artist, "My work seeks to engage the viewer in a relationship of the soul. A personal act of witnessing and being witnessed. As a form of active resilience, my work speaks directly to the heart of issues such as race, sex, power, gender and human suffering at the same time as evoking a sense of the sacred and irrepressible urgency of the human spirit.

Entry Details
  • Art form: 3-D
  • Depth: 4in
  • Medium: ceramic
  • Width: 5.5in
  • Year created: 2018
  • Height: 9in