Messejah Washington

Messejah Washington


Messejah Washington

My work is centered on themes of identity, decolonization, white supremacy, the great migration, the innocence of children and my own mortality. I use symbols such as a matador hat, pith helmet, Uncle Sam hat, ball and chain, sword, prison outfit, ruff collar, Greek columns and star. The matador hat serves as a symbol of rage; the pith helmet serves as a symbol of imperialism, one worn by Europeans during the scramble for Africa. The Uncle Sam hat serves as a symbol of my identity as an American. The ball and chain, and prison outfit serve as a symbol of immobility, the enslavement of blacks and other Americans under capitalism and the prison industry. The sword serves as a symbol of decolonization, violence in regards to a struggle for liberation. The ruff collar and Greek columns serve as a symbol of white supremacy and being colonized in America under European doctrine.

The star within my work represents the North Star followed by those enslaved for freedom. The north is the same location my ancestors from the south traveled during the Great Migration in search of better opportunities. I painted halos over some self-portraits in my work to highlight my own mortality, and welded a steel casket with a mold of my face in bronze to do the same. I paint images of children in Bronzeville, a neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, and I also paint personal images to highlight the innocence of children. Bronzeville was the first neighborhood blacks from the south migrated to during the great migration. Bronzeville also was the scene of the most violent race riot in Chicago during 1919.

The purpose of my work is to archive the times in which we live, to highlight the journey of my ancestors and the struggles we continue to face in Chicago. I believe the world will change drastically and it’s important to document what’s happening in this period, as honest as can be.




$2,000 - $10,000

For more information or to commission a unique work of art through Not Just Another Pretty Face, contact Marina Vulinovic at or 773-324-5520 ext. 1006.