At the height of the Black Lives Matter protest 23-year-old Nneka Jones used her art to support the movement. Her efforts did not go unnoticed.
The young Trinidadian artist grabbed the attention of Time magazine’s art director Victor Williams with her painting of George Floyd and other embroidered portraits she shared on Instagram. Impressed by her work, Williams commissioned Nneka to create a piece for a special project issue titled, “The New American Revolution.” This series, a collaboration between Time Magazine and singer and producer Pharrell Williams features conversations and essays for a more fair and equitable future for Black Americans.
Nneka created a hand-embroidered image of a black and white American Flag that fades into red for this project. “The incomplete finish contributed toward the meaning of the piece, as it is symbolic of the work in progress toward a more inclusive future”, she said. Nneka’s interpretation of the American flag was featured on the cover of the August 31- September 7 issue of Time magazine. The cover received over 19K likes on Time's Instagram page.
Nneka was given 24 hours to complete the hand-embroidered flag, a project that can take up to one month to create. With tenacity and grit, she pushed through the pain of cut and sore fingers from having to work at such speed to meet her deadline. Describing her work, Victor Williams explained, “Every time she pushes the needle through the canvas, it’s an act of intention that mirrors the matching, the protests, the push to form a more perfect union. It’s deliberate, It’s painstaking. It’s long. It’s hard. Each one of those stitches is a single person’s story, a single person’s travails. That’s why we wanted to make the stitches visible.” The young artist has cemented her place as an activist artist and gained massive street cred with her first Time magazine cover art.
"I have the ability to create something beautiful to look at and so painful at the same time. I’m here to prompt people to talk about it."
Nneka moved to the U.S. from Trinidad and Tobago to attend college. She graduated in May 2020 with a bachelor’s in fine arts and a minor in marketing. Nneka has produced beautiful mixed media, paintings, and hand-embroidered art influenced by her Caribbean culture. She has also brought attention to topics like sexual abuse, human trafficking, and police brutality against the black community with her art. In her mixed media and embroidered portrait series “Targets Variegated”, Nneka drives awareness of sexual abuse and human trafficking of black women and girls.
Targets Variegated Photo/@artyouhungry
While her most notable achievement to date is her Time magazine cover art, Nneka’s journey as an artist has just begun. She has also gotten speaking opportunities at events like the Adobe MAX 2020 Creativity Conference and Art Week 2020, inspiring others with her story of how she realized her dreams. Nneka Jones is an inspiration to young people of Caribbean heritage and the Caribbean community at large.