Separation Census, 2022
Presented by Wa Na Wari
Separation Census is a body of work that employs collage and digital storytelling to explore the complicated intersection between personal narratives and our political economy. The work employs the knowledge and language frameworks of big data as tools to understand the social and emotional impact of displacement and forced migration. By making community and familial intimacies the lens through which this conversation about these issues, Wokoma centers the personal impacts of displacement over capital gains. Separation Census is an experiment in disrupting the primacy of capital gains as a measurement of social progress. It is a critique of the ways we have conversations about development policy and the housing market.
Drawing from the artist’s personal experience of having most of their extended family displaced from homes in Seattle’s Central District, Wokoma is attempting to mine the emotional consequences of this departure for those who left and those who managed to stay. The work graphically renders the migratory experiences of family members post displacement, charts the quantity and quality of their intimate
encounters over time using speculative census-style graphs, and collides these data renderings with formal portraits of the ‘study subjects’ and photos from their family album.
Inye Wokoma is an artist, filmmaker, journalist, and co-founder of Wa Na Wari in Seattle, Washington. Wokoma opened Wa Na Wari, a Black-centered arts organization and community space, in his great-aunt Birdie’s house in the Central District in 2019, along with co-founders Elisheba Johnson, Jill Freidberg, and Rachel Kessler. Wa Na Wari aims at reclaiming space and supporting black artists in Seattle’s historically black neighborhood, in the face of gentrification. Wokoma has had two solo museum shows, including This Is Who We Are at Frye Art Museum, and An Elegant Utility at the Northwest African American Museum. His work focuses on gentrification and his family’s history in Seattle.