( ENSPIRE Community Spotlight ) Abi Salami is a Self-Taught Artist Using Her Paintings for Advocacy
ENSPIRE Contributor: Abby Ladner
Abi Salami, a visual artist based out of Dallas, Texas, is using her art to promote positive social change. In her work, Salami celebrates the beauty of Black and African womanhood while spreading awareness of the importance of mental health. Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Salami aims to use her art to destigmatize mental illness, especially in African communities. While each piece of art varies in its message, they are all united by Salami’s inspired personal style and dedication to advocacy. With bold designs, Salami uses her self-taught talents to support and inspire.
Through many of her pieces, Salami expresses the importance of Black joy and self-care. Her message is encapsulated in “Love, Me (Flourish),” in the description of which Salami says, “This piece addresses self-love and aims at normalizing Black joy and Black luxury. The world seems to be more interested in Black trauma as if forgetting that we continue to thrive despite the daily injustices done to us. We laugh, we relax, we party, we swim, we vacation, we languish. Our identity is not immediately defined by our traumas, it is defined by how we overcome them and the beautiful lives we are able to live despite it all.”
This theme is found in many of her paintings, including “Listen, Me Existing and Thriving is a Daily Protest, Okay?” in which Salami asserts that simply existing can be a form of advocacy. Paintings like “Click Here to Unsubscribe to European Beauty Standards” fight against the pressure for Black women to conform to beauty standards that exclude them.
Social movements inspired some of Salami’s works. One of these is “Africa on My Heart and the World in My Hands,” a piece that was made in response to the #ENDSARS movement in Nigeria. In the description of this painting, Salami says, “In this piece, I lament Nigerians’ ability to move to other countries and climb up economical and social ladders until we are in positions of influence, meanwhile we can’t resolve the many issues facing our motherland.”
Abi Salami’s career in art began almost a decade after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, where she studied accounting. Despite having no formal artistic training, Salami committed to painting full-time. Since then, Salami’s artwork has inspired many and been showcased across the nation, including at the African American Museum of Art and the Women’s Museum. She was selected to join the Saatchi Art 2020 Rising Star Under 35 and was named one of Saatchi’s New Voices Top 100 Artists for 2021.
Through her art, Abi Salami celebrates Black and African womanhood while highlighting the importance of mental health. To learn more about Abi Salami and to view her work, visit her website here. Find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.