Niama Safia Sandy

New York | New York

Independent Curator, Cultural Anthropologist, Writer

WHAT SHE DOES FOR LOVE: Everything. I am an independent curator, cultural anthropologist and writer.

LADIES SHE ADMIRES: Oh wow! This is difficult! There are so many women I admire and love for so many different reasons! One of the people most present in my mind right now is the photographer Renee Cox. Renee is fearless and unapologetic about every single thing she does - while also being deeply intentional with her choices whether creatively or in general. The current body of work she's producing is called Soul Culture. It stems from her desire to create a world where people can live without fear of judgement, anxiety, despair, and to be honest [at] this moment we are all plagued by those very issues regardless of race, gender or class. I believe creating a safe space for another human being - whether figurative or literal - is one of the most noble and powerful things a person can do. That, for me, is the real power of art.

HER GOALS: A short-term goal is to acquire funding to present an incredible photo exhibition project I'm working on during Frieze Week in London this Fall and at the 2018 Dakar Biennale next year in Senegal!

A long-term goal is produce a book project from my curatorial project Black Magic: AfroPasts/AfroFutures which aims to contextualize Magical Realism and Afrofuturism as nodes on a larger continuum of Black creative expression across the world.

ADVICE FOR FELLOW LADY GUNS: There is a Henry Miller quote that I've had in my email signature for something like a decade: "The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware." They are words to consider, if not live by.

Photos by Seher Sikander

What did being a part of the TFTT project mean to you?

Testimonies from the Table is so deeply important and critical at this moment because of the myriad efforts I see aimed at diminishing our collective histories, liberties and resolve. People of color have never not been under assault in this modern Western context, but I believe that what we are seeing right now feels so much more unprecedented and violent because we are more connected and able to access each other and this information from far and wide at a rate we never have before. Being able to participate in TFTT was a blessing for me because I wasn't looking at it solely as a matter of voicing my individual experience but more so as an opportunity toward the larger task of affirming to and for black folk that - regardless of their location, ability level, age, gender, sexuality -  our lives, loves and experiences (for better or worse) matter especially in the face of all this struggle WE ARE STILL HERE and we continue to flourish! 

What advice would you give to women who are struggling to find their seat that the table?

Self-reflection and building/maintaining confidence is very important in this journey no matter where you perceive yourself to be, or what you want your personal journey to look like. These things make the difference between never trying and finding yourself somewhere you and everyone else never thought you'd be. If you really believe you can do something, nothing can or will ever stop you. 

What is one thing you do every morning/night that makes your day feel complete?

I try to practice gratitude for all things. It helps center and put everything in perspective.

What keeps you focused or inspired?

Black resilience.

What do you do or who do you turn to when you need creative inspiration?

I find that my most inspired moments come from absolute stillness.

How do you build yourself up after self-doubt or adversity?

I think self-reflection is really important. If you don't know and understand your self, it will be very difficult to change anything about your life.

What has been your biggest sacrifice?

In 2012 I left my job, my friends and family, and a great deal of my belongings to move to a city in a country I'd never visited to begin graduate studies in Anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. I saw taking that step as providing the grounding I felt I needed to begin my curatorial practice. I'm still rebuilding from that but I have never regretted any part of that journey because I understand that sometimes you must destroy what is good to have something extraordinary - even if it that good thing is yourself.

RECOMMENDATIONS IN HER CITY: Life Wellness Center on Tompkins Avenue in Bed Stuy: The owners made a conscious effort to create a space for healing and revitalization in a community that truly needs it! They offer acupuncture, massage and a slew of products.

Photo by Moyo Oyelola

Photo by Moyo Oyelola

Trinciti Roti Shop on Lefferts Blvd in Queens BRUH! I would walk there from anywhere if I had the time for proper doubles (Trinidadian vegan snack/meal, depending on how many you have and your hunger level). I focus mostly on doubles, the curry, roti skin and other baked good here.

Casa Adela in Alphabet City: You'll notice a theme here. I love food. I'm a super proud Caribbean woman. I LOVE food of the Black world in general. The rotisserie chicken here is to DIE for! The restaurant has been here for at least 40 years and the staff is all neighborhood people, some even the grandchildren of Dona Adela herself, who have lived and worked here for decades. Aside from the food, as a native New Yorker it is my opinion that these spaces are important.

READING RECOMMENDATIONS: I try to read Chani Nicholas' affirmation horoscopes weekly. I swear this woman is somehow peeping into my window every week and taking notes based on how accurate the horoscopes are. It's AMAZING! Some of my favorite authors at the moment are Roger Bonair-Agard, Kiese Laymon, Erica Buddington, Josie Pickens, Robin Coste Lewis, Christina Sharpe. I could be here all day so I'll stop there. Also, I read The Guardian, CRWN Magazine, The Atlantic, New York Times Magazine, Vox, and a bunch of other digital media sites regularly.

Follow her on Instagram:  @___niama___