ROZEAL, formerly known as iona rozeal brown is a D.C.-based contemporary artist and DJ who fuses Japanese imagery and hip-hop culture in her large-scale acrylic paintings. Brown created the series “ a3” an acronym for “afro-asiatic allegory” to interrogate issues surrounding authenticity and culture in the face of globalization.
“I felt stung,” brown recalls of her time in Japan and encounters with the Japanese blackface tradition of ganguro. “They were imitating me—a Black person—in a way that was neither flattering nor historically sensitive.” Not only did the people darken their skin, they permed their hair to achieve textured afros and donned the latest hip hop fashion. To them it is costuming, but brown’s work complicates the ganguro tradition to analyze the history of visual representations of Blackness, specifically Black women.
Her large-scale acrylic painting appropriate Japanese ukiyo-e printmaking and the contemporary world of hip-hop. In a3 blackface #65, brown depicts a crouched woman draped in a kimono. She evokes the luminosity of hip hop culture through the addition of highly-embellished shoes and a silver necklace that the woman delicately holds in her hands. In this work, blackness becomes a costume as the woman’s porcelain skin remains visible around the perimeter of her face. a3 blackface #65 underscores the global fascination with Blackness and hip-hop culture and explores the complexities of appropriating Blackness.