exploring intersections of diaspora, identity, and vulnerability

: by zainab aliyu
Gravitationally bound

Remnants of something stellar

Dark matter we were

Unlocking fragments of myself

Only to find the remaining slices are now shut tight

A reminder that I owe you nothing

You can't see me blush

But rest assured

Blood /does/ rush beneath this skin

Melting hot wax

On a concrete windowsill

Emitting immutability

A compact rendition of my autobiography resurfaces

When you inquire casually about where I'm from

Sometimes I can't help but ramble on

When I don't know the answer to things...



Not out of desperation,

But out of fear

Not of uncertainty,

But of obscured weaknesses


I am a conundrum

Even to myself

We matter

No matter

How many times they try to tell us we don’t

Through action, or

No action

We must leap over hurdles rooted in fear

Every so often, mistreating yourself

Can be mistaken for treating yourself

I need to sincerely discover myself

Before I can sincerely celebrate myself

Sedating regimens

Seconds of hiatus

Minutes of tranquility

Refuge from imprudent pressure

On this planet that always desires further

Value the extraneous

Treasure the unnecessary

A black box with no output

A stimulus with no response

A shock with no affect

What are your internal workings?

My first pseudonym wasn't my last

The internet is a corybantic space

Stranger danger is a myth

When I became a woman,

I tried to conceal it from my mother

Vulnerability has been my most significant fear

For as long as I can recall

Fairly nebulous lens

Through which I tried to perceive you


I ran out of cleaning supplies recently

Unvarnished prosperity

Isn’t quantified by

Immediate reception

But rather

Delayed introspection

Don't wear your skin as a burden

I'll bear the scars with you

Carry the weight with you

Dodge the cartridges with you

Vital byproduct

By way of light

Made tangible and rendered permanent

The sudden flare tortures my retinas

No photosynthesis, please




So finite

I can barely reach

Lost in the equinox of earth

It is said that humans are God’s finest work

Yet, I look onto the purity and allure of nature

And can’t help but have divergent viewpoints

You take but never give

If that's the way you wish to live

Then free samples only

Uncontaminated synchronicity

Missed connections

A jovial coincidence

Entertain me

Pacify me

A paradox of sorts

about the piece :
Regardless of their differing backgrounds, locations and contributions, members of a diaspora generally share an emotional attachment to their hereditary land and connection with one another; face similar difficulties in constructing and developing themselves; are aware of their dispersal and, if conditions allow, of their oppression and estrangement in the nations in which they live. “Reflective Confrontation” creates a catalog of my African Diaspora experience through a series of selected thoughts, musings and observations where I aim to explore the friction between dislocation and descent.

about the artist :
Zainab Aliyu is a Nigerian-American designer who sees every human interaction as an experience that merits attention and thoughtfully intentional design. Her work leverages the human side of technology to enrich the ways in which we connect with one another. Ultimately, she aims to center overlooked, underrepresented, and institutionally excluded narratives about the human condition by creating resonant experiences that encourage thoughtful interaction and inspire reflection, consideration, and conversation. 

e-mail & instagram