Meet Noraa James, the creator of our new Ancestars Collection.
Noraa James is a creator from Norfolk, Virginia presently based in Athens, Georgia. As an Old Dominion University Drawing & Design graduate, Noraa’s work is an exploration into the representation of blackness in its beauty, sublimity and the connectedness of such with the natural elements in and around us, primarily through the scope of afrofuturism and afrosurrealism. Outside of art, Noraa occupies himself by swooning over his wife, listening to and learning music production, anything sci-fi, healthy cooking/eating, intimate and deep conversations, most things eclectic, defining blackness in my own terms, fitness, and alternating between reading a book and the clouds barefoot under a tree at a park.
We sat down with Noraa to discuss his artistic journey, inspirations, motivations and more. Here’s what she had to say:
When and where did your artistic journey begin?
It began in preschool. Instead of proceeding to insert the crayons into my ears or ingest play-doh, I turned it into whatever I imagined in my head. I’ve always had the passion to create (I had a brief stint in competitive sports but I was much more suited for art class). I developed myself to a level that was college ready and just kept going. A few setbacks here and there plus even more victories brought me here with you. After a year of near despondency, I’m more invigorated and inspired than ever and putting more trust into THE ALL being, human design and other studies has brought amazing creative collaboration and commission opportunities my way.
What style of art do you stick to?
Traditional drawing/painting, photography, and graphic design are my daily entanglements but I’ve recently started embracing my passion for music production once I got over this false imposter syndrome. My goal is to create a project that merges visual and audio elements and just put it out there.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I draw inspiration from my mental meanderings with anything related to the beauty and sublimity of nature on Earth and well beyond it. I’m inspired by melanin, science fiction, mindfulness practices, peace+love+kindness, and music. I actually receive visions from music — if I like it, of course.
Who do you look up to in your industry?
Who I look up to shifts based on the primary medium I focus on. Now that I’m rekindling an obsession with painting, I frequently visit the works of the legends: Basquiat, Keith Haring, George Condo, Kehinde Wiley. Some “newer” artists/designers I really admire are Joshua Mays, Kadir Nelson, Chance Nkosi Gomez, Robin Velghe and all the artists I share space with at our studio, Finley Light Factory. I’ve also been lately floored by the work of Eyvind Earle, most known as a background painter for various Disney projects back in its earlier animation days. Add an underline of Afro Deep House music and I’m in a euphoric state. I could go on.
What training/certifications do you have?
Undergrad in Drawing and Design. Next big goal is to receive certification as a Baptiste Power Yoga instructor at Shakti Power Yoga in Athens, GA.
How did you hear about Yoloha Yoga and why do you identify with us?
I was connected to Yoloha through a close family friend/yoga instructor, Maëlis, who is connected to Keith Golden, an ambassador of the company. I identify with the company from a mutual understanding of our need to be more responsible with our impact on the environment and also more connected to it. I love aligning with companies championing sustainable and eco-friendly practices while also creating beautiful products and providing opportunities creatives.
What motivated you to create this designs?
Sharing the same name to an earlier series of digital manipulation pieces I created under the former pseudonym, SReal, Ancestars (2020) is an imagining of my ancestors as connected constellations among the cosmos, full of peace, compassion and guardianship. I am deeply inspired by ritual masks of various African societies and that is the primary component in how I form the faces of these beings. In this way I attempt to connect representational ancient beings with a space beyond size and time.
Why did you choose the Loveland Foundation?
Black women are the most enduring people I’ve ever personally known because of all the adversity I’ve seen the ones around me push through. Because of this, I believe they deserve to have as much access as possible to mental health resources usually more accessible to other demographics. Loveland Foundation, started by Rachel Cargle, literally provides the resources for women of color to receive healing and support and Loveland has helped hundreds of them since its inception.
What role does yoga play in your life?
Yoga reminds me that the present is all there is and that space is where the feeling of time ceases to exist when I’m completely there. Getting back into my body and being mindful of that understanding is something I revisit regularly throughout my day whether on a yoga mat, in the gym or at the art studio.
What is a mantra that you live by?
“Love All, Trust Few, Fear None” tattooed on my right tricep. “Imparo ancoro”, or “I still learn” as a reminder that I will never have it ALL figured out, which is something I’ve become okay with. Continuously learning with curiosity and wonder keeps life youthful and interesting.
Keep up with Noraa!