Who: Dr. Fari Nzinga
What: Artist, curator, and anthropologist
Where: Warehouse District
Q: What is a supposed luxury you find disgusting?
FN: I feel like in today’s society there are so many things that are luxuries that should actually be human rights. Like healthy, delicious foods that don’t have pesticides or genetic tampering. Or the right to a house that is decent, clean, pest free, aesthetically pleasing, and has central air and heat because it not only gets hot here but that muggy cold that gets in your bones is so cold [laughing].
Those are human rights, but unfortunately in this city and in so many cities across the globe, those types of things are reserved as luxuries for those who can afford them.
Even the luxury to have a job that you actually enjoy and makes you feel proud of your work, and where you aren’t exploiting anyone, feels like it should be a right. Those things are so meaningful, and that’s part of the reason why I took it upon myself to produce and curate The Rent is Too Damn High! exhibition. I wanted to bring together all of these different artists to show their work and have conversations around the history of New Orleans and the present situation in New Orleans.
Art and creative expression are so important, and I feel like there are a lot of people that would go into these fields as a profession, but because of the systemic roadblocks in the way where art has been the luxury for few people or recognized only for its commercial success, people aren’t able to study or go into art. That shouldn’t be a luxury just for the few.
Q: If you were to chart one thing about your life for a full year, what would it be?
FN: [Laughing]. This is hard because I keep a journal, and I look at it and think, ‘What are you doing? What are you talking about and writing about?! There are all these important things going on in the world and you’re talking about how dating sucks?!’
So, I’m not sure what I would chart because I honestly feel like it’s so hard to get outside of oneself, especially if you’re an overthinker or even a thinker at all.
Maybe I would chart my eating habits. Or, last year I traveled a lot, so maybe I would chart my travels–the people I met and the places they came from. Then it could be a resource directory of cool people, places, and things. It would be an easy way for someone to steal what was my life for a while [laughing].
Q: Who would you like to have walk through your exhibit?
FN: Everyone and anybody. I really want people to come and engage with the ideas and the artists. I want to see people talk to the artists about where they come from, what they’re trying to say, what they see happening in New Orleans, and what they see as worthy of celebration and critique.
It would be great to have people take those conversations and the art seriously and not only look at art and appreciate its beauty. I’d love if people not only talked and engaged with the ideas presented in the art but also wanted to apply them in some tangible way so people’s lives are made better.
I keep joking that if no one shows up at the April 7th opening, at least my mom will be there [laughing].
Q: What do you find interesting about archetypes?
FN: They seem to serve a useful function in terms of trying to identify what is going on in society. In anthropology we use the ‘ideal type,’ as these ways to identify what is happening in a society or community–how even among difference, there are similar roles. Of course, there are different cultural parts that align with each individual, but there are roles that are consistently present, such as that of a fool, a chief, the mistress or whatever the case may be.
As much as I love the uniqueness and cultural differences that make a place distinct, I also love to see things that translate. That’s one of the reasons I went into anthropology. I wanted to go to different places and talk to people. That way I could go places and say, ‘Hi. I’m Fari. Let’s share. Let’s bond’ [laughing].
That’s what the exhibit is about as well. It’s the opportunity for people and artists to talk with one another about art and what has been going on and continues to go on in this city. I love artists, and this is why I’m doing what I’m doing. I feel like artists have so much to say and so much to contribute to society.
The Exhibition The Rent is Too Damn High! will open on April 7 at the Crescent City Boxing Gym (3101 Erato Street). The opening event on April 7 combines elements of traditional two-dimensional exhibitions of visual art with performance and political satire, exploring themes of home, belonging, gentrification and displacement. Tickets are $10, which you can purchase here. You can also make a tax deductible donation to the exhibition and project here.