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The Art of Living Black: An Interview with KaliMa AmiLak

KaliMa AmiLak is an Oakland-based Photographer, aspiring Performing Artist and Model. A native from Brooklyn, New York, KaliMa has transplanted to California to expand the discovery of herself and her artistry. She currently runs a Photography studio at American Steel Studios with a focus on portraiture, fashion, commercial and editorial work.

What do you find most inspiring about making art? Tell us about your current projects.

What I find most inspiring about making art is the creation of it all. The process alone is invigorating because the possibilities are endless. It’s like fire — once the spark has happened the fire goes wild. Your ideas grow because of your excitement. A current project I’m working on now is an event called #PHOTOBOMB, a networking event for photographers and  models exchanging experiences, information, and taking photos revolving around a theme. I’m also in the process of revamping my current baby, Evoke the Goddess, which is a photography series and platform for womyn to celebrate their self expression and a means of visibility, empowerment, spiritual and cultural movement.

How did you become involved with The Art of Living Black? How does your work represent and uphold the tradition of this exhibition?

I became involved with The Art of Living Black with the inspiration of Nye Lyn Tho’s first time appearance last year and with the help of Stephen Bruce, who is

Motherly Prayer

also a part of the exhibition and someone who I consider a mentor as well. I believe that my work represents and upholds the tradition of this exhibition through documenting the experience of being Black, and ways in which we can show how to maintain our pride and self love even though we struggle with it all the time. As a Black womyn who mostly photographs Black womyn, I think it’s important, especially at this time right now to deliver a message to womyn that there is light in who you are, to be empowered and that the power you hold is beyond measurable. I speak to myself about this as well.  

What was your path to becoming an artist? Please share some of your favorite work.

It first started when I was in Brooklyn College and I wanted to take summer classes to make my graduation time quicker and I thought, ‘why not photography?’ So I took film photography summer courses, and that was it. I fell in DEEP love with photography. I once said to myself, “this looks like it was taken in a magazine!” That drove me to do more photos, and to make my ideas come to life. I took digital photography the next year after that in college, and that led me to get my first DSLR for christmas. I think my favorite work came from eight years ago when I made a series called, A Day In My Shoes, where I took random grungy shots in Brooklyn with my Converses, and my recent project in which I’m going to revamp called, Evoke The Goddess, where I have taken photos of Black womyn dressed in African/Cultural cloth and other props of their desire and I capture them in their Godliness.


Who are your inspirations?

Great question. Black womyn inspire me because their strength is remarkable. The ways where they make their pain into something beautiful is inspiring alone, even if it isn’t art and it’s just living your life. It’s their growth overall. My parents because they’ve worked HARD to get where my family are now. Migrating to another country to make ends meet for your family at a young age is no easy task. But they did it, and all I wanna do is repay them for everything. Anyone who strives to work hard to do what it is that they love, putting their utmost time, energy and passion in their creation or career, is an inspiration to me.

What do you like to do when you’re not making art?

I’m very much of a chill person, so you would probably catch me watching a movie or on my laptop blasting music, lagging around like a cat in the house, reading, or spending the day outside. But I like making art so I might paint too.

What’s on your bucket list?

An Ode to Kali

Oh my. I’ve honestly just started my bucket list! A few things on my bucket list is to meet YeYe Luisa Teish, or at least spend like a week with her, to travel back to Africa, Louisiana, Peru, Japan, Hawaii (the list goes on!), to have some land in my country [Dominica], to buy my first home, to have a solo exhibition tour and to honestly just live my life the way I see fit, whatever that may be — fearing less and trusting more.

If you could meet one artist, living or not, who would it be and why?

Michael Jackson. Hands down. This is the man whom I have revolved my life around ever since I can walk and talk [my family would tell you lol!]. Despite everything, he was genuinely beautiful. He is one of the epitomes of a legend who is still unstoppable, and divinely creative.

Thank you, KaliMa.

For links and more info on KaliMa’s work and TAOLB shows:

Instagram: @laydeekayephoto

Oasis Gallery
American Steel Studios
1960 Mandela Parkway
Oakland, CA

Saturday Feb, 18th 3pm – 6pm
Sunday Feb, 19th 1pm – 4pm
Monday by appointment only

Featured Artists : KalLma AmiLak, Zoe Boston, Nye Lyn Tho, Winter Williams

Oasis Gallery
American Steel Studios
1960 Mandela Parkway
Oakland, CA

Satellite Art Tour
Feb. 25th & 26th 11am – 5pm
Mar. 1st Artist / VIP reception 6pm – 8:30pm
Mar. 3rd Art Murmur First Friday 6pm – 9pm
Mar. 4th & 5th Studio Tour 11am – 5pm


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Richmond Art Center
2540 Barrett Avenue
Richmond, CA 94804-1600


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Gallery Hours: Wed-Sat 10am-4pm