Black Legend, Black Oregon

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SALEM— Intisar Abioto is a mover, artist, and photographer.

She’s the creator of The Black Portlanders, an ongoing photo essay and exploratory blog imaging people of African descent in Portland, OR. And for the remainder of this month, her photographs will be showcased in Governor Kate Brown’s Office.

The exhibition, titled, “Black Legend, Black, Oregon,” explores the lore and living legend of Black presence in Oregon. The photographs highlight Black artists, elders, poets, and historians.

“I am appreciative to have this show, and I also know that people of African decent, indigenous communities, women, the trans community, and the LGBTQ+ community deserve these spaces,” said Abioto. “We should be here. Being able to have these pictures here both says that, and it gives us space to say, this should happen more.”

Abioto has been photographing people of African descent since 2013.

“Being able to have these pictures here both says that, and it gives us space to say, this should happen more.”

“The whole thing began organically just from wanting to know about Black people in Oregon. There are so many things that have disrupted Black life throughout Oregon’s history… the exclusion laws, the displacement— it’s a denial of your life and possibility. So getting to produce this exhibit, I’m glad, but I realize it’s not about me,” said Abioto.

The exhibition features images from her ongoing photoblog, The Black Portlanders, as well as photographs taken around Oregon for the Urban League of Portland’s “State of Black Oregon” 2015 publication.

“For me, my goal is to understand Black people’s efforts,” she continued. “There has been a lot of work, labor, and building of Black communities, despite the exclusion laws and disparities that people of African descent have faced.”

“In this exhibition, I made sure to include portraits of three different artists in my exhibit to refer to the history of Black Oregonians but also to say that there must be more of us,” said Abioto. “I hope that the work and the conversation around the work can assist other people, and can show different perspectives and identities that they can also do this. I hope that we can be, and become brave together.”

The exhibition is presented by Oregon Arts Commission and their Art in the Governor’s Office Program, which honors exemplary Oregon artists.

About Author

Ryleigh Norgrove is a Communications Fellow with the Office of Governor Kate Brown.

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