Art-work by Zahira Kelly
Hail Mary, full of grace. One Dominican artist is reimagining the images of Catholicism.
Georgia based Zahira Kelly, an Afro-Latina “mami, writer, artist, mujerista, award-winning sociocultural critic, and speaker” created a series of images that celebrate the Virgin Mary–as a black woman.
“The image has been in my head for a while,” she told VIBE Viva. “I have seen so many incarnations of la virgen, and wondered what one would look like drawing my own [as an] afrolatina [with a] dominican-york background.”
The Virgen Negra collection features a vibrantly colored Holy Mother, “which reminds me of home,” Kelly says.
Raised between Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic and Bronx, New York, Kelly, also known as Bad Dominicana online, was “drawing as soon as I was able to hold a pencil,” and says that her art has always focused on women. “My visual art is dedicated to highlighting AfroLatina and Women of Colors beauty…In my images I reexamine my bicultural upbringing, Indigenous displacement and neocolonial marginalized womanhood as well as concepts of fragility historically denied to lower class women of Afro-Descent.”
Her Dominican background influences her work. “Catholicism is a part of many Dominicans’ upbringing and I was no exception,” she told Fader. “For me, depicting La Virgen as a Negra is fusing our African ancestry with Catholicism like many in our country have done before with spiritual figures.”
And Kelly’s art is more than just pretty pictures. With collections like the Nude Series and Galaxy Princess, the artist wants people to think. “Can you see lower class Black women as the Holy Mother in such a classist, anti-Black misogynist postcolonial landscape?…There’s a direct correlation between historically white-leaning standards for Latin American women and rage at the Holy Mother being depicted as Black…to quote Bey, “I ain’t sorry.”
See more of Zahira Kelly’s work here.