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Exhibit at UNC Charlotte puts lynching in past, present context
'Project Noose: Unidentified' debuts
Published Saturday, January 9, 2021 8:40 am
by Ashley Mahoney

Malik J. Norman’s exhibit, “Project Noose: Unidentified” can be viewed in person Jan. 14-29 at UNC Charlotte’s Popp Martin Student Union Art Gallery.

Malik J. Norman’s first solo exhibit addresses abuse of Black bodies.

“Project Noose: Unidentified” explores lynching in both a historical and contemporary context. The exhibit, which opened in December and included a performance component, will be available for in-person viewing Monday through Sunday Jan. 14-29 from 12-6 p.m. at UNC Charlotte’s Popp Martin Student Union Art Gallery. A virtual closing reception is scheduled for Jan. 28.

Norman, a Mineral Springs native, is a Bachelor of Fine Art candidate in photography at UNCC. He utilizes his craft to create socioeconomic empowerment among Black communities.

Norman became inspired to create “Project Noose: Unidentified” in 2018 during a black and white printing class.

“The series really just speaks about the systematic abuse of Black bodies,” Norman said. “It is a topic I have been struggling with since high school and it manifested into this work as I tried to go into the studio and reflect on what it means to exist in American society—in the world in general.”

Further inspiration came from James Allen’s book “Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America.” The depiction of people committing atrocities against Black people shocked Norman. It resulted in further study, particularly of the work done by the Equal Justice Initiative.

“I began to look at lynching occurs today through mass incarceration, police brutality, gentrification and we all know that it is happening, and we view it and perceive it and call to action, but there is a continuation of how we are perceived, and this abuse is just sustained. This series calls attention to it directly.”

“Project Noose: Unidentified” features three key symbols: the Black body, clay and rope.

“The Black body connects to the Black diaspora,” Norman said. “The rope is a symbol of the abuse and oppression. The clay pays homage to the land on which lynching has occurred.”

Norman was inspired to use clay based on The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration in Montgomery, Alabama.

“They have these jars of clay of these locations where lynchings occurred,” he said. “I thought, ‘that’s the truth. It is land that contains the memory and the abuse.’ I was talking to some folks in my community and they said, ‘we all come from mother earth, and we all return to mother earth.’ The beginning and the end is with the land. Incorporating the land has been an important component to it.”

The clay also represents time.

“The clay deteriorates, which gives the prints a sense of time,” Norman said.

Norman’s work features large-scanned prints, which are displayed on rope, which serves as a timeline of historical representations of lynching.

An underlying component of the series is a question of how someone can make their mark and leave a legacy. Norman presents the question in the context of what he describes as Black people living in a myth.

“Our culture, our history is one that we were stripped from and then we created a new, and also, our history isn’t taught, so we do not understand the depths of ourselves,” Norman said. “That myth was established through the abuse of Black bodies, and how to make your mark from that.”

In addition to his most recent work, Norman was one of 30 seniors selected for Fujifilm’s Students of Storytelling last summer, receiving a personal profile page on the Fujifilm website, and up to $3,000 in Fujifilm gear to craft and share his story “Visual Waters of Mineral Springs,” explores the Black experience in southern rural communities.

Off-campus, his work “Ebb and Flow of Rural Black Spaces” was shown in the exhibit “H20/20, Elemental Retribution” at Gallery C3 at Alchemy curated by Janelle Dunlap last summer. He is also a featured artist in The Light Factory exhibit “Seeing Voices: Community (Un)heard” in collaboration with The School of Good Citizenship, which is available virtually and in-person through Jan. 7.

He intends to take a gap year after graduation, later revisiting the idea of attending graduate school. Heading into his final semester, his time will be consumed with working on his senior thesis, a continuation of his work on “Visual Waters of Mineral Springs.” He will also spend his final semester applying for artist residences.

Norman is the third annual Mary Mahoney Memorial Scholarship recipient, which is annually distributed by The Charlotte Post Foundation to artists pursuing higher education in honor of Post journalist Ashley Mahoney’s late mother, who nurtured artists during her life.

For more information about Norman:


To RSVP for the closing reception: 




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