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Meet Jahlil Nzinga: The Artist Rejecting The Art World

“Let these teachings be immortal. There for you and anyone that cares to look– and if you can learn from them that’s what it’s there for.”

Jahlil Nzinga is the Californian artist who put everything into his third official gallery presentation, “MISSED CALLS.” The Los Angeles show ran earlier this month and focused on the theme of human connectivity. However, displaying art publicly has not always come easy for Nzinga.

In spite of success as a musical artist, Nzinga felt misplaced and trapped. To regain focus he dedicated his purpose to painting, but the visual arts world wanted to confine him to the “rapper” label. As he recalls breaking into the art scene, Nzinga laughs, “My fellow artists looked at me crazy, the gallerists looked at me crazy, the collectors looked at me wild…everyone is going to judge where you come from.”

In the beginning, Nzinga refused to show his work: “I was painting because I love it, I didn’t want to deal with pompous opinions. If you care about my growth, sure, break me down right now– inform me and help me, but if you’re here to just talk shit? Take a seat.”

Even though his 4,000 square foot studio housed project on top of project, “I couldn’t even go to the bathroom without seeing a painting,” he was still hesitant about entering the culture of exclusive art. Of course, as Nzinga’s friends realized his commitment and talent, they pushed him further.

Shifting his perspective and purpose, his decision to share his creations ultimately reflect his original beginning: “I’m not rich right now! It’s because I want to teach through my stories and my feelings because that is how we learn empathy.”

Nzinga is on the path to prove himself. He has grown his artistry from holding shows in post office hallways to solo gallery exhibitions. Rejecting the formal academic path of training, he develops his style through personal process and cultivation. Ultimately, he says, “The goal is to be immortal.”

First and foremost, he insists, “My mom deserves all the credit.”

Images courtesy of Brandon Stanciell 

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