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We’re excited to host these dynamic performers who will be activating our Burroughs Gallery with performances that respond to themes of the body, queer introspective experiences, Black femme histories, and folklore!!


Calling you to bring friends, family, and chosen family.



2 – 2:45PM 



ShaZah is the performing duo of Shanta Nurullah and Zahra Baker. They combine storytelling, singing, poetry and instrumental music to explore a broad range of themes and genres rooted in the African-American experience. “Om Mission,” their recent commission for About Face Theatre’s partnership with the Stony Island Arts Bank, focused on Black lesbians in Chicago. They conducted interviews and developed a video and live performance that recognizes the contributions, struggles, and dreams of their peers. In addition to presenting this show for About Face Theatre’s Kickback Festival, ShaZah presented it at Navy Pier’s Chicago LIVE Again weekend last fall and at Rhode Island Black Storytellers’ Funda Fest.


Shanta Nurullah has been performing, as a storyteller and musician, around Chicago and nationally for over fifty years. A 2021 3Arts Awardee, she plays sitar, bass and mbira, is a member of the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians); co-founded the all-women’s groups Sojourner and Samana; and currently leads the band Sitarsys. She received the Zora Neale Hurston Award from the National Association of Black Storytellers as well as the Artist Fellowship from the Illinois Arts Council.


Zahra Baker is folk and jazz vocalist. Her performance history includes vocalist for “Performance duo: In the Spirit” (with Emily Lansana), which has been featured at festivals including several (NABS) National Association of Black Storytellers festivals, National Storytelling Festival Jonesborough, Tenn, and Texas Storytelling Festival. Zahra has been vocalist for jazz ensembles, theater companies, social justice activism and healing workshops.  She has also worked as a teaching artist for over 30 years, primarily in the Chicago area. Currently, she is co-founder of Freedom Song Leaders, Classic Black, and is a member of Shanta Nurullah’s Sitarsys.


Darling Shear 

3pm – 3:45PM


Darling Shear is a Chicago Native but has roots in Atlanta where Darling started dance training. Darling has trained in Ballet, Modern, Jazz and African. Her career highlights have been working with Bubba Carr choreographer/artistic director to Cher for 12 yrs and counting, Rhonda Henriksen soloist with Hubbard Street and Twyla Tharp, Tracy Vogt former Philadanco dancer, Hinton Battle the Original Scarecrow from the broadway production of “The Wiz” and Lauri Stallings Hubbard street soloist and founder/artistic director of gloATL.


Darling, a freelance dancer/choreographer in the city has worked with The Fly Honeys of the The Inconvenience, Body Cartography of Minneapolis, Links Hall, Victoria Bradford, Chicago AIDS Foundation, chances dances, no small plan productions, Slo’Mo, the Public hotel, Soho House Chicago, Growing Power inc., EXPO Chicago, Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, the school of the art Institute,  Depaul Art Museum, University of Chicago,  University of Illinois in Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago Film Archive, Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, Salonathon, and Open TV beta.


In 2018 Darling was chosen as the cover model and also quoted in Micah Salkind’s Oxford published book ‘Do you remember house? Chicago’s queer of  color underground’. Followed by receiving  The Between Gestures  scholarship to Austria to attend Impulstanz in Vienna also the Chicago Dancemakers Forum fellowship and Links Hall CoMission Fellowship, along with a 3Arts nomination in 2019. Darling’s career has been one with a strong spiritual center and allowance of universal well-being.

“I sit back, observe and consume my surroundings and tell stories from an unbiased perspective. There are 3 sides to every coin and I aim to be the ridged. My work reflects the Contrast and Alignment of the cooperative components of life.”


Works in EMERGENCE are diverse in their subject matter and media, but a few themes reappear throughout. Working in abstraction or in the traditionally peaceful genre of still life, artists like William Carter, Allen Stringfellow, and Jonathan Green express themes of interiority or sociability, history or modernity. Notably, Stringfellow and Ralph Arnold both experimented with media and materials and worked extensively in collage, which allowed them to combine abstract design, figurative imagery, and on occasion political ideas.

Viewers typically expect Black artists to focus on particular aspects of their social and political identities within their work. Where might those expectations come from? Still life, abstraction, and collage may express many different things about artists’ interior lives and their visual and social observation, whether connected to public manifestations of identity or not.

William Carter’s mid-century still life Untitled presents a group of vibrantly colored bottles that invite the viewer’s gaze, set against a similarly colorful background with floral elements like grapes and leaves. They give evidence of conviviality and might be interpreted as symbols of social gatherings, but they could also just be a collection of pleasing forms. We might put Carter’s still life in dialogue with that of Jonathan Green, who became close friends with Carter while living in Chicago. Green’s close-up view of an eloquently simple composition presents oranges, a pear, and a lemon in front of two vessels. Works like this piece call the viewer to examine the objects the artist chose to include, to consider how they interact with each other like bodies in space, and to reflect on their meaning within the traditional genre of still life painting.

Collage might suggest the piecing together of identity from different components that might not usually coexist, giving room for more expansive imaginations of meaning than a straightforward representational image might allow. It could also just be an inventive way of combining colors, shapes, and textures. Allen Stringfellow’s Untitled, a collage from 1962, brings familiar motifs from still life—fruit and flowers, desserts and glassware—together with imagery of artist’s models and performers. Layered with paint and tissue paper that frustrate the viewer’s attempt to get clarity on the subject matter, the bursts of form and colors hint at the splashy abstraction of Stringfellow’s untitled, textured painting made from house paint and particulate on cardboard. Here the artist tests commonly found materials to create new textures and plays with the creation of colors and finishes that diverge from “Western” academic painting methods.

In The Waiting, Arnold constructs a large collage from different paper components, lace, and paint. In the piece, elements of European and African art are placed in dialogue with one another, while some figures appear alone and isolated, others in large groups. Without giving easy answers, Arnold implies questions about social issues. Who is waiting, and for what? In his Love Sign II, which bears the words “Love is Universal,” Arnold asserts the equal validity of all types of romantic affection and love, utilizing collage to convey a more straightforward political message.