Ayana V. Jackson

Double Goddess… A Sighting in the Abyss
Archival pigment print on German etching paper

Ayana V. Jackson

Official Sites: Website | Instagram


Ayana V. Jackson (born in 1977 in East Orange, NJ, lives and works in Brooklyn, NY) uses archival impulses to assess the impact of the colonial gaze on the history of photography and its relationship to the human body.

By using her lens to deconstruct 19th and early 20th-century portraiture, Jackson questions photography’s authenticity and role in perpetuating socially relevant and stratified identities. Her practice maps the ethical considerations and relationships between the photographer, subject, and viewer, in turn exploring themes around race, gender, and reproduction. Her work examines myths of the Black Diaspora and re-stages colonial archival images as a means to liberate the Black body.

Her work is collected by major local and international institutions including The Studio Museum in Harlem (New-York, NY), The Newark Museum (NJ), The JP Chase Morgan collection, Princeton University Art Museum (NJ), the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (Australia), The Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago, IL) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (Seattle, WA).

Jackson was a 2014 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow for Photography (NY), and the recipient of the 2018 Smithsonian Fellowship (Washington D.C).


Ayana V. Jackson grew up in East Orange, New Jersey. Having studied sociology at Spelman College, she has a particular interest in the 19th and early 20th century representations of the Black women’s body and often casts herself in the role of historic figures.

With this work, Jackson, a self-trained photographer, is marrying Drexciya with existing water mythologies in countries affected by the slave trade. The series Take Me to the Water, is related to Drexciya, an electronic music duo from Detroit who established an origin myth based on the Middle Passage, the route for ships carrying enslaved African people across the Atlantic Ocean. The world of Drexciya begins with the creation of an Aquatopia at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean populated by the unborn children of pregnant African women who jumped off or were thrown overboard slave ships.

In Jackson’s fabricated universe the precolonial water spirits she embodies become midwives to these deceased pregnant women. Thus the artist was inspired by the Drexciyan concept of an intercultural, transnational network that shows the movement, migration, or scattering of people away from their homeland, to newly created spaces that positively transform identities and cultures.