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Bahati Simoens Beyond Silence: Love Letters to the Black Body

Whispers of heritage bleed into the vibrant strokes and vivid palettes of Bahati Simoens, a self-taught artist weaving the colourful threads of her Belgian and Congolese descent into every canvas. Birthed amidst the cultural tapestry of Munanira, Burundi, in 1992, Simoens crafts not merely paintings but channels of dialogue between her roots and her current abode in Johannesburg. The figurations she bestows upon the world aren’t mere representations; they're celebrations, stories, and unspoken dialogues, exuding the essence of her African lineage in every sway of the brush.

© Bahati Simoens
© Bahati Simoens

A nostalgia-laden symphony of Michael Jackson, Harry Belafonte, and classical notes provided a soundtrack to Simoens’ youth, gently guiding her hands towards the expression of visual art. Memories, crafted amidst art in myriad forms, did not merely linger but percolated through her, feeding her early ventures into the creative realm. Her canvas became a sanctuary of expression, a field where bottled emotions and stifled voices found refuge and blossomed into potent visual narrations.

© Bahati Simoens
© Bahati Simoens

The journey through art, for Simoens, transcended mere creative expression, spiralling into a therapeutic meditation, a realm where her daydreams forged palpable images. Her emotional tapestry, once concealed behind mirth and silence, gradually unfurled amidst periods of isolation, becoming a visual language in which the unspoken found voice and pain discovered a vivid echo.

This canvas, however, was not only a personal sanctuary but a silent witness to a transforming global landscape. In a world echoing the silenced voices of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and many others, silence was no longer a refuge but a weight. Silence, once a keeper of clarity and wisdom for Simoens, morphed into a cocoon from which a new imperative emerged: to wield her voice and medium as a tool, not merely for personal expression but collective awakening.

© Bahati Simoens
© Bahati Simoens

From her serene two-bedroom abode, the artist now forges narratives not just for herself but for every story untold, for every black body uncelebrated in its authenticity and richness. As music and familiar series hum in the background, her paintings emerge – not as mere visual entities, but empathetic beings, each endowed with a tale, a context, silently conversing with the observer.

Simoens navigates the canvas with an intuitive, emotionally-charged choreography, exploring, questioning, and gently challenging the world and her place within it. Yet, the messages inscribed within her works are not prescriptive. In what she describes as a "love letter to the Black body," Simoens extends an invitation to her audience to wander through her creations, to find reflections of their own narratives and to perceive, even if just for a moment, a semblance of visibility and presence.

In this multitudinous interplay of silence, celebration, and poignant reflection, Bahati Simoens shapes a conduit where personal stories meander through broader sociocultural dialogues, crafting a sublime mosaic where art and narrative dance in poignant, colourful symbiosis.


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