Kiara T. Dunbar

K Dunbar, Profile Picture

Artist Biography

Kiara T. Dunbar (she/they) is a junior majoring in Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies and minoring in Film & Media Studies. They are a multimedia artist who utilizes poetry and film to honor the life they've lived while being queer, Black, and nonbinary. Their art most commonly explores themes of Black queer/transness, fugitivity, statelessness, and belonging. Following in the legacies of Black artists such as Wanda Coleman, Ntozake Shange, and Cauleen Smith, Kiara hopes to cultivate an image of Black gender-marginalized folks that centers love, community, and Black feminist traditions.

This year, through the IDA Fellowship Kiara wrote poems for her first poetry collection titled i am not a girl!, an archival work for Black, queer and trans youth. As a recipient of the highly-selective Major Grant, this summer Kiara is adapting the chapbook into a short film titled GIRLHOOD APOCALYPSE -- set to be completed by December 2021. She is expanding this concept even further as an incoming member of the 2021-2022 Honors in the Arts cohort.

i am not a girl!

Front cover of "i am not a girl!."

author's note

there were several times i thought about deleting my work, but mama gave up the sun just so i could see the sky. so whenever i think my art isn’t worth it, i think about that sacrifice. i think about all the things she could have done, things she would have done -- but tucked them away to make space for my dreaming. so i dream of a world where mothers, too, hold stars in their hands.

i create art because i’m looking for a thing the world can’t destroy. my mother knows a lot about this impracticality -- we grew up withering underneath the same wretched sky. still, we deserve forever and then some. as an artist, i found mine in poems and films.

each day, i am still teaching myself how to love again. still learning how to laugh with the sunrise in my throat, like seeing stars for the first time. maybe i don't make sense. but as this universe moves toward entropy, i think these disordered thoughts of mine are the only things that could make sense.

here’s where it all begins.

 

special thanks to

jamayka young, for bringing my project to life through illustrating the book cover.

allison oddman, for continually supporting my work and advising my project.

ace the storyteller, for being my accountability partner during this process.

the 2020-2021 IDA + CBPA cohorts for offering me community and spaces that allowed my work to blossom.

JUDITH BUTLER CALLS IT GENDER TROUBLE

only you know the loneliness a mirror holds

the violence of a door you slammed close

some days you will have names for this pain

other days you will do anything 

metals and medicine to take it away

 

only you know what it means

a child dreaming of front doors

only you can remember how it feels

to be girl, Not-girl, error,

dreaming.

 

it does not matter if you are all spikes or all sunflowers. 

you are still a girl

 

COMME DES FILLES

blushing bouquets of suppressed dreaming

and suspended desire. waiting on hand and foot 

for a wedding dress. learning to be a woman 

when we are not ready. vermilion vomit staining 

white tiled floors. for our beloveds.

who else. 

bathrooms, a sacred place for us all. shrine of

hopes and men and hopes that men won’t

hold us from home. ah, what a beautiful thing

(it is)

to see a girl in love.

RITE OF PASSAGE

the first time i lost myself for a man, 

i missed my childhood. 

we fucked to nothing. 

i was a slab of meat. 

he was hungry. 

sure, i moaned a bit. 

even woke up with bruises and womanly pain. 

i texted my sister and 

bragged like it was a damn great thing

to feel disposable. 

the second time i lost myself for a man,

i was thinking about what i wanted from mcdonalds. 

maybe a happy meal would do

PRECEDING BEAUTY 

my skin spills out from too-tight clothing.

really, i have always had issues 

with being too much. 

 

a dizzy girl like me hides in a poem like this.

always mistaking the floor for sky,

i kiss my linoleum lover goodnight

and fade into black. 

 

a meal is not a meal but a battleground.

a plate is not a plate but a white mirror. 

i disappear into the bathroom and exit, 

a little closer to death than i was 

an hour ago. 

 

i pepper most meals with tears 

i wish eating was an easy thing 

what could i have been 

if grandma didn’t say a word 

and what could i have been 

if my mother had? 

 

this body is borrowed like trauma. 

someone will write theory about 

the offensive nature of my stomach.

chipping away the bulging flesh, 

pound by pound: 

this is how the world imagines me smaller. 

 

dying in this body makes me unworthy of memory. 

who, then, will i become now? 

gone? forgotten? 

a collage of excess and regret, 

i begin to disappear into myself all over

again

LAVENDER

i was a girl and i didn’t tell a soul.

stardust fell into my eye when i fell into her

and it was all purple starglow,

purple and purple and this time it wasn’t bruised.

like before.

some lights don’t require an audience

so i am a girl in love now

and i won’t say a damn thing about it

MIRRORTALK

i promise to love you when i’m sober.

with clarity. clean and unmessy

the way love is / the way i think it is

 

i promise to stop disappearing.

smoke and mirrors, cloaked in clothing

i promise to brave the storm

and fight against memory itself to survive.

(even if all i become

is rosy cheeks and old refrains.)

 

i promise to keep writing myself 

poems. i have always been the love / 

the loss / the pain / all of it

 

I

i know a strong thing when i see one,

so i looked into the mirror for the first time.

this skin is thicker than honey

sharper than your tongue

and when heaven calls, it’s because i died

of natural causes.

if i think i can still see stars in my hair 

sometimes what does that mean?

i don’t know. so i shake them out for other girls

picking up happiness off the sidewalk.

my love will make its way to you too,

not a soul gone unloved if i can help it.

if.

WANTING

i want to braid my hair into petals

& i want to feel like a flower in bloom.

i want to feel like sun.

i want to stretch golden rays

into the endless blue.

i want that intimacy.

i want to know my body

the way it knows me.

i want my smile instead of my body

to be the last thing people remember 

about me.

Artist Recommendations

Watch my film midas, an abstract short that explores Blackness, gold, and malleability.

Read some poems I submitted to Ambrosia, a zine annually published through the Women's Community Center.

Follow my Instagram at @fkakiara, where I post about my filmmaking journey.

Support Jamayka Young's art shop -- they are responsible for the visual conception of my chapbook cover.