Dakotah Aiyanna is a multidimensional artist immersed in various forms of art including portraits, commissions, murals, conceptual art and digital illustrations. Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Dakotah received her first mural gig in January and her journey began.
Guided by spirituality, love for Black people and visions of her art sent through dreams, Dakotah has let passion and purpose lead her way.
“When I have dreams about these pieces, they come to me in different segments. I’ll see different elements of the painting and then I might have a dream of the finished piece and it's something that’s mine. In my dream, I’m looking at it like, how in the world did I paint this?” Dakotah said.
Dakotah always knew she had a unique eye but as others began recognizing her talent, she felt her aspirations were confirmed.
At a photoshoot in Winston Salem, North Carolina, a woman saw Dakotah’s work. Staring at the art in amazement, the woman said, “This is so powerful.”
Dakotah likes to discuss her art with others without conveying that she is the artist, to have more authentic and raw conversations. She began talking to the woman without telling her who she was. The woman recognized all of the spiritual meanings embedded in Dakotah’s art, from a mouse hanging from a vine and mushrooms growing out of a person’s arm. Dakotah eventually told the woman who she was and she was stunned.
“You are gifted. I am getting chills. I don’t know how long you plan on doing art but if you ever needed confirmation that art was your calling, this is it,” the woman said.
With messages like these in Dakotah’s heart, she knew being an artist was her soul’s purpose.
Conveying Black empowerment and authentic Black experiences has always been a significant part of Dakotah’s work. Dakotah describes herself as “gracefully radical” and hopes to change mindsets and uplift Black people through art that is powerful yet elegant.
“Everything I do is for Black people. Always, forever, until the day I damn die. I can only speak from a Black experience and that’s what I am going to always do because the Black experience is so complex. It’s a beautiful nightmare being Black and I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Dakotah said.
Black artists are unique, innovative and resilient. Their struggle and perseverance is displayed in their work. Dakotah’s art exemplifies this authentically.
In Dakotah’s art series “If God was a Woman” she depicts Black women in the image of God.
Dakotah illustrates the beauty and eloquence of Black women, “standing on top of mountains, gracefully existing amongst oceans, in deserts with children running to them or just people existing in the same space as these God-like women.”
Dakotah’s spiritual journey has greatly influenced her art, as each piece she creates has spiritual meanings immersed in them.
“Every single piece that I paint period has spiritual meanings behind it, down to the colors. So when I create, it’s literally straight passion, purpose. I can’t do anything outside of that. And because I love what I do it resonates with people,” Dakotah said.
The very first piece Dakotah painted was a 40 x 40 piece called “Wonderland.” She used her spiritual attunement and dreams to guide her through the creation process, as she does with all of her work.
“Everything that I saw in my dream, I added it to this painting, that I was supposed to. If I felt like I was finished, I’m like ok I’m done. I felt God was like ‘nah you’re not done until I say you’re done.’ Every single piece of that painting, “Wonderland”, had a spiritual aspect to it,” Dakotah said.
The racial unrest and social injustice occurring across the country have impacted Dakotah’s art and activism work significantly. A pivotal point in Dakotah’s career was the opportunity she got to contribute to the Black Lives Matter mural painted on Tryon Street in Charlotte.
After many days of protests over the unjust murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many other Black lives taken by police, Dakotah and 16 other Charlotte artists came together to spread inspiration.
“That right there was breathtaking,” Dakotah said.
She got a chance to work alongside her favorite artists in the Charlotte community and meet other talented Black artists. Although they were fighting for justice with heavy hearts, these artists united and created a vibe filled with empowerment and positivity. Black people continue to prove that Black excellence and resilience outweigh oppression.
Dakotah depicts these facets of Black liberation in her work, but also highlights the heaviness of being a Black person in America.
Dakotah’s piece “Freedom Cry” depicts a Black woman crying while smiling. Dakotah described that while amazing things are occurring in her life and she is grateful and content, she can’t truly be fulfilled because Black people are not fully liberated in society.
“People who look like me are dying every single day, getting hung, getting killed by the police, getting killed by KKK members. White supremacy still exists. I cannot truly be happy because we’re not all free,” Dakotah said.
Dakotah continues to fight for social justice through her art and uplift heartfelt, spiritual messages through her work. She encourages us to be ourselves authentically and follow our passions and purposes.
“Find your voice. Find the voice that fits you,” Dakotah said.