Even before the ‘Black Lives Matter’ rebellion in the US happened, Simone Saunders, who’s a mixed-race woman of Jamaican and European descent, used to exclusively portray blacks in her art. This visual artist and a classically-trained actor are based in Alberta, Western Canada in Treaty 7 Territory.
Simone had always focused on the black female body in her works. And she depicts them in full glory in her rug-hooking, tufting, and weaving creations of large, colorful textiles. According to her, her art is a search for belonging and connects her to black history.
To quote from Simone’s website, “Repetitive ideologies of powerful creatures are embedded as talismans within Simone’s work – enhancing upon otherness and the black body’s relation rooted in a kinship of power and survival.” Simone’s handmade tufting textiles showcase cultural mythology, history, and personal landscapes. For her, her works are rooted in powerful history and connect to a global diaspora of a black community.
Since her younger days, Simone showed varied interests. She first delved into performing arts by enrolling in the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Performance & Theatre Arts degree. She then went on to qualify courses in Photography, Auto-Cad, and Interior Decorating from George Brown College, Toronto, Canada. Not content with this, she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Textiles with a focus on Printmaking from Alberta University of the Arts, Calgary, Canada. So good was she in this that she graduated with distinction.
However, Simone desired something different in the art field and settled for tufting. For the uninitiated, tufting is a type of weaving by inserting a thread on a textile base. The protruding U-shaped loops of extra yarn on the textile is what makes tufting one of its kind. This ancient technique is used to make warm garments, especially mittens.
Simone turned tufting into a medium of art. Using vibrant colors on black bodies, she created awesome works of art that soon caught the imagination of viewers. She’s a recipient of many scholarships and awards, and her works continue to be displayed in both solo and group exhibitions.