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Honors College Student Says Art is a Reflection of Her Faith, Identity

By Cade Slaughter

*Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on Oxford Stories

Nakiyah Jordan never imagined that art would consume her collegiate career at Ole Miss. Art was supposed to stay a hobby and less of a way of life, but that soon changed when she arrived in Oxford.

Nakiyah Jordan, from Soso, Mississippi, is a sophomore BFA student. Photo by Cade Slaughter.

Jordan, from Soso, Mississippi, is a sophomore at the University of Mississippi and is pursuing a B.F.A. in studio art. Jordan is very active on the Ole Miss campus, working for student housing and involved with various campus organizations.

She is vice president of the Honors College Minority Engagement Club, a cartoonist for The Daily Mississippian, the public relations chair for the Black Student Union – social media and design, and a member of Lambda Sigma National Honors Society.

“My identity as an artist wasn’t embraced as much as my identity as a good student and leader on campus,” Jordan said, referring to her time in high school.

Questioning her interest in psychology, Jordan soon realized art was something she could turn into a career. She switched her major to art during her first year at Ole Miss and has not looked back.

Jordan credits APEX, a leadership summit for rising seniors in high school that takes place during the summer months of June and July. Spending three days on campus, students are submerged into an Ole Miss experience based on service and fellowship. Jordan spent this past summer serving as an APEX leader, working to show high school students the same spark she originally saw in Ole Miss.

Jordan plans on receiving a BFA from the university with the intention of becoming an art professor. She hopes to eventually see her art hung in galleries for audiences of all backgrounds.

“I paint black people because, you know, that’s what I look like,” Jordan said. “It took me a while to think that blackness was beautiful. And so, I like embracing that because I finally believe it.” Photo by Cade Slaughter. 

“I think that it’d be really beautiful to have my art accessible to people who don’t normally get to see really cool art,” said Jordan, whose art imitates her growing comfort with her own identity and radiant faith.

Art as Faith and Power

“Nakiyah’s art to me means power,” said Bethany Thomas, a sophomore at Ole Miss and close friend. “Her portrayal of the world comes from a place of faith, blackness, and womanhood. You feel power through her pieces, and you should, because it was painted by a powerful woman.”

Jordan and her art is just that—power. Her art is closely tied to her faith, and that became evident when Jordan elaborated her perspective on her own art.

“Art is a reminder of faith,” she said. “I’m not perfect, and my art is not perfect, but the bit that I can do is perfect in Him.”

Faith is an intimate concept for Jordan. She often thinks about Colossians 3:23 when processing the placement of art in her life. The passage says, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.”

Faith is a constantly evolving concept in the same way that Jordan’s art develops into something new with each new piece of art and each new phase of life. On the subject of race, Jordan sees her art as a growing reflection of her own identity.

“I paint black people because, you know, that’s what I look like,” she said. “It took me a while to think that blackness was beautiful. And so, I like embracing that because I finally believe it.”

As a member of the Sally McDonnell Honors College, Jordan’s academic career at Ole Miss will accumulate in the presentation of her honor’s thesis. As an art major, Jordan’s thesis will look different than the thesis of many of her honors counterparts.

Instead of presenting writing of research on a topic related to her major and interests, Jordan’s thesis will center around her own gallery-styled presentation. Jordan hopes to present a consistent collection of her art in juxtaposition with the sound of her own voice projected in whatever setting her art is displayed.

“In my head, it’s like spoken word poetry is painting words onto silence,” she said.

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