Aliyah Bonnette

Aliyah Bonnette is a multidisciplinary artist working out of Raleigh, North Carolina.

Working using a variety of materials, she creates painted quilts as her medium. Using bold and often abstract shapes in her background, she juxtaposes her realistic figures as a way to play with the natural comfortability of the quilts and the often-unspoken discomfort of the topics within her work.

Her work focuses mainly on the black experience in America and pulls inspiration from various topics in the African American Diaspora or her own life experience as she navigates the world as a Black Woman in America. Though a self-taught quilter, her bachelor’s degree in both painting and textiles have allowed her the space and knowledge to explore her medium more in depth.

Commented exhibition tour: everyday at 4:30pm (EN)

This exhibition is sponsored by:

In the waters we rise

Commented tour daily at 9:30 A.M. in English

Aliyah Bonnette’s work is heavily influenced by her relationships with her late grandmothers, her ancestors, or her ‘Kindred’ as she calls them.

She discovered quilting three years ago at age twenty after learning that quilting may have been used in the underground railroad to aid slaves to freedom.

When she first told her grandfather about her sewing, she learned he had quilts and fabric from her late grandmother after she passed away. She was a quilter in the 1970s while living in Georgia and learned to sew by watching her own mother.

A few days later, she and her mother drove to Georgia and were surprised to find barrels full of her grandmother’s unfinished quilts as well as used and unused fabrics. She was stunned. It was a sign that her grandmothers were alive within her, guiding her all along.

Over time, she has taught herself a process of improvisational quilting to physically connect to her grandmother and the practices of her women ancestors. By incorporating the very fabrics and unfinished quilts she touched and sewed herself, her practice becomes a space to stitch together the stories and memories of black women across generations.

This work tells the powerful story that water can carry within the black community, using multiple figures, each quilt begins a narrative that can be further explored, Water, has both been a positive and negative symbol in Black history. On one hand, it is used as a way to free enslaved people, to connect them further with their ancestors, to wash away sins, or to nourish. On another hand, it was used to enslave, degrade, punish, or even kill. In the Waters We Rise is a culmination of all the ways water has affected the Black community. It is a way to process the Black experience using a common thread woven through each part of history.
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