March is a special month, as the Spring symbolizes a myriad of things but foremost it is my birthday month, and the day of the Equinox March 21st which is my #ThankYouMom4BringingMe2EarthDay… this is why I wanted to celebrate people who bring joy and life to our community: Artists.
This month, I have the fortune to chat with an esteemed brethren of mine who has shaped my FM area experience. We met on the NDSU campus during a Black Student Association meeting and I cannot imagine how my time in Fargo would be without him in my artistic picture. I asked SESEN to introduce himself in his own words to capture his life journey:
“My birth name is Alaki Ajang but I call myself Sesen, my artist name you can say, which represents a lotus grown from the Nile, the same river that has grown and sustains life for my relatives, ancestors and many East Africans in general.
My dream is to carry on this name Sesen and pass it on to the next line of Ajangs if the opportunity presents itself, I’m praying I get a daughter hahaha…
My artwork represents my deep spirituality, and reveals a world deep within which the naked eye cannot see.”
Next time you cross his path, ask him what art project he is working on.
Where do you call home?
Where my ancestors were born and raised in Malakal, South Sudan as well as Fargo, North Dakota where I was born and raised.
Through faith, perseverance, and for me personally, my faith in the one who created me. With that being said, acknowledging things will not go as planned or even go a lot slower than expected, but through that trial, it will build a type of character in you nobody can teach. As well as there can be many lessons through failure. But again, withstanding the trial by fire through the gifts of perseverance and patience, you can witness a bigger picture and have a deeper understanding about yourself.
What is the story of your passion for giving back to the community through your art and becoming an artist?
I always love seeing people’s genuine reactions, whether it be tears or smiles, from an artwork touching them to the core. Art can really penetrate individuals like a sword in ways other careers cannot because there is a spirit behind art, an energy behind it and those experiences fulfill you in ways no amount of money can ever do.
What advice would you give our future artists just starting in the FM community?
Firstly, most importantly, discover your identity as an artist. This means, studying the artists that came before, study what made them unique. Find some alone time to just create, I call it cocooning, until you begin to hone your skills and uncover your own style and expression: the butterfly. Next, connect with other artists whether it be through a school, a gallery, going to an open mic, or joining an artist group, to collaborate with other creative minds and having the space to share your revolutionary ideas, thus, building a community.
Why should artists care about the FM community?
We are in a unique time since the FM community is growing at such a fast rate while artists usually leave to bigger cities for better opportunities that they believe Fargo can no longer provide. Thus, there is this big void in the Fargo-Moorhead community in the art department. And since artistic expression produces and aids in cultivating cultural identity, artists have a golden chance in having their thumbprint on this massive growth going on in this community.
What are misconceptions about artists in the FM Community?
That the few artists in the city only like to paint bison, flat lands, and hay (laughs). Or bougie artwork that is for millionaire collectors that’s only purpose is to hang on the wall of a business or mansion. And the belief that there are no diverse creators in the F-M area; however, there is a range of phenomenal artists growing and building a name for themselves within this community. Franklin Ugochukwu and Monk are great examples of this.
Can you share some of the recent projects you have done for the community as well as some projects you are working on?
Yes, one of the recent events I was a part of was our community’s second annual Juneteenth, organized by one of my good friends Fred Edwards. My role was creating graphics such as flyers/ brochures and creating interactive artwork for the community. After the event, I was gifted the opportunity to commemorate the successful event by using this gallery space in Renaissance Hall. I have a project coming hopefully in the near future called Silent God, it’s been in my head since 2015. I cannot wait to reveal it and shock the world!
What is your vision for 2030 for the Tri-College community?
I know it’s only 9 years away, but I envision a new wave of starving artists in a similar position as me. In that I mean their passion for art and its practice exceeds their love of money, and they embrace the difficult journey of discovering themselves through the arts. But I’m hoping that there are 10x more inspiring artists in the community than now. Also, that the challenges they face are different, in that, art as a career choice is looked at as a necessity like an engineer or doctor. So, art is no longer looked down upon.