Sneaker freaker, tattoo artist, illustrator, visual communicator, she seems to be in love with and made of colors. Imani is a native of NE Washington, DC and still proud to say she is an Ivy City honey. She is a graduate of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, DC and Clark Atalanta University where she studied.
Me: When did you decided that you wanted people’s skin to be your canvas? What about the sneakers?
Imani: I didn’t. I wanted to know what I was allowing someone to do to me, how they were playing a part in my self harm ~ I asked my then artist, a white man, if he’d apprentice me. He shared that he’d never apprentice a black person, let alone a female … and I was like cool ~ From there it shifted from a curiosity and became more of a MUST. Chris Mensah tattooed me and before I know it, I had diarrhea of the mouth about me as an artist. He gave me a try, I did my best daily, and he kept me. Skin and the journey actually chose me.
My thoughts: It seems to be a general consensus among true, honest art that your art chooses you. I think once we realize that art is predestined, it comes into full bloom.
Imani (con’t): Sneakers I used to help build a name & reputation for myself. To set me apart from other tattoo artists, to meet people and to attract people from the culture akin to me, hip hop. I customize(d) and got noted through Cey Adams & Def Jam, Girls Got Kicks family, Red Bull and others. I started translating what I was learning from tattoos to sneakers … for my own practice. And ended up building 2 brands in one. I still customize sneakers. It’s in my top 3 fav canvases ~ skin, kicks + wood.
Me: When was your first trip to Japan? Why?
Imani: My first trip to Japan was almost 6 years ago, at my 10 year tattoo anniversary ^.^
I treated myself as a marker for being able to hold down my first apt for 3+ yrs & was making a living at tattoos (based on my desired income goals). I thought I’d go to Japan since my hobbies are there
I don’t vacation well so the best I knew I could do if I got bored with vacationing is NERD OUT! Hello Osamu Tezuka museum, manga museum, Akihabara & hellz gyeah Harajuku. I knew I’d have an opportunity to meet my long time language exchange friends (people I’d been exchanging with for 4 years prior) and possibly meet some of my favorite artists.
“So I bought my tickets, packed a bag and the rest was history.”
Me: Where do you think your affinity with Japanese culture stems from?
Imani: My affinity for Japanese culture stuck from Elementary school. I was a part of a language exchange program & was assigned Japanese. We were going to do a full home exchange as students and then the Gulf War happened. They snatched the program with no explanation to kids or parents really. It was cool! When they took the program away I’d already learned to count, learned some words and was learning how to eat with chopsticks … we practiced with M&M’s . Anime & manga were also introduced to me around then …
“It was cool to learn the origins of things I liked. Layers”
Me: Why Kawii? What’s Afro Kawaii?
Why NOT Kawaii?!
Imani: I grew up in the hood but had cute things around and lots of pink to trigger happy ~
I think living a kawaii (cute) lifestyle unconsciously helped me stay optimistic about my life’s possibilities … not pessimistic about my circumstances ^.^
I love kawaii (cute) culture and use it as a way to connect with others. My personality is both juxaposed with and complimented by the concept of this lifestyle. And again … I get to geek out in Japanese culture while peeling back layers.
Kawaii is a positive, creative, colorful & expressive part of Japanese pop culture as Hip Hop is to American, specifically Black, pop culture. I relate to both helping embrace my feminine & gritty sides at the same dayum time. So why not 🤷🏾♀️
Of course in the fashion of enjoying layers, digging deeper would be a scholastic-type look at how kawaii culture + hip hop compliment each other; exploring the unspokens/ (possibly) unintentional bridge between black & Asian culture.
Both pop cultures are global so there’s plenty room for black people EVERYWHERE to define their own kawaii as it relates to their culture & experience. As it relates to my fandoms, I specifically explore relations between Japanese and black Americans.
Soooo…Imma brag a lil bit Imani is my cousin and not for play play, my first cousin, we have the same blood coursing through our bodies. We are designed by art that was at times suppressed. Our childhood was not all frills, sunshine, rainbows and riding bikes in the park. I’m paraphrasing but, we often pay for our ancestors inequities. There were/is a lot of unresolved transgressions, misunderstandings and lost time within our family so, we did not grow up together. I tread…we tread carefully because of things unresolved, love and understanding but, as adults we are coming to understandings and our own resolutions. As a big cuzzin I am proud to bursting of Imani. I know that she has always exuded creativity onto whatever media/canvas feels good. There is so much more coloring of the world for her to do. In one on one conversations we have discussed trials, tribulations and triumphs to include mental health. I did not get into that much because she shares in great detail on her on blog. Below I have shared links to the world Of Imani K Brown, the infamous IKB, Afro Kawaii. Take some time to get to know here better, say hi, ask questions.