Independent Curators International supports the work of curators to help create stronger art communities through experimentation, collaboration, and international engagement.

Independent Curators International supports the work of curators to help create stronger art communities through experimentation, collaboration, and international engagement.

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States of Becoming

Curated by Fitsum Shebeshe

States of Becoming examines the dynamic forces that shape artistic practices for a group of African artists working in the U.S.

Curated by Fitsum Shebeshe, the exhibition connects conditions of relocation, resettling, and assimilation which inform the discourse on identity construction within a contemporary African Diaspora.

For Shebeshe, the exhibition grew out of lived experience and firsthand knowledge of the weight of cultural assimilation, since he moved from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Baltimore in 2016. Confronted with a different society, the curator developed a wide range of existential questions that shaped his relationship to institution and culture, from the realization that for the first time he was viewed as belonging to a minority because of the color of his skin, to a newly gained awareness of the profound impact of his traditional and conservative native culture on his sense of individuality.

Having found kinship among cultural practitioners from the Diaspora who shared his experience, Shebeshe has united 17 artists with States of Becoming, who live and work in cities across the U.S. in New York, Washington, D.C., New Haven, Detroit, and Los Angeles among others. From 12 countries in Africa and one in the Caribbean–Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe–they either relocated to the U.S. or are first-generation born over the last 30 years. Like Shebeshe, each artist in the exhibition has had a unique relationship to the U.S. context, which is reflected in each of their work whether it explores their personal experience or expresses a transformation in their artistic practice as a result of relocation, such as a move from figuration to abstraction.

States of Becoming explores the artists’ perpetual process of identifying, redefining, and becoming themselves in both a local and global context, opening up perspectives into multiple states, both geographic and emotional, in a constant flux of social and cultural adaptations. Presenting artworks across mediums, ranging from painting, photography, and sculpture to installation and video, the exhibition expresses different ways in which identity is remade and reimagined for each. A sense of a hybrid culture emerges out of overlapping real and imagined genealogies in the works: cultural, racial, national, and geographical belonging.

Artists: Gabriel C. Amadi-Emina, Kearra Amaya Gopee, Kibrom Araya, Nadia Ayari, Vamba Bility, Elshafei Dafalla, Masimba Hwati, Chido Johnson, Miatta Kawinzi, Dora King, Tsedaye Makonnen, Helina Metaferia, Nontsikelelo Mutiti, Yvonne Osei, Kern Samuel, Amare Selfu, and Yacine Tilala Fall

States of Becoming is a traveling exhibition curated by Fitsum Shebeshe and produced by Independent Curators International (ICI), New York. It is the result of a series of programs, pioneered with the support of the Hartfield Foundation, aimed at providing opportunities to alumni of ICI’s Curatorial Intensive as they move through the stages of their career, and reflecting ICI’s commitment to fostering and championing new curatorial voices who will shape the future of the field. States of Becoming is made possible with the generous support of ICI’s Board of Trustees and International Forum.


Tour Dates: 2022 – 2027
Number of Artists: 17
Space Requirements: Appx. 3,500 – 7,000 sq feet
Provided by ICI: In addition to loan and artist fees for the works on the checklist, didactics, press support, installation guidelines, and some technology are provided.

For more information, please contact Becky Nahom at