Soft Luxury in Chicago

The Mariane Ibrahim gallery is a consistently edifying experience. Last year, I found myself stunned and awed at the Mariane Ibrahim gallery in Paris. Stunned because who knew that my whimsical decision to explore Blackness in Paris could lead me to such a breathtaking experience? And awed because of the inspiration and comfort I felt in the face of Amoako Boafo’s expansive painting of a woman playing tennis. This moment was the impetus for my continued whimsy, and led to my walking into the Mariane Ibrahim gallery in Chicago’s West Town 9 months later.

What I felt this time was once again unpredictable. I was met in the entrance by a list of names, unknown to me, yet familiar in their Nigerian-ness. Upon seeing the first painting, I exhaled a breath I wasn’t aware I was holding. As I strolled, I was enveloped by feminine energy, Blackness, and a sound that embodied all the lovely parts of noise and all the juicy parts of quiet.

The highlight of my sojourn in the gallery this time around was the viewing of Olukemi Lijadu’s Guardian Angel. A piece which touched on love and history, family and art, religion and colonialism. In short, everything I could have asked for.

The Mariane Ibrahim gallery is a soft luxury that always rejuvenates my spirit. It was the ostentatious centerpiece of my Chicago experience.

My first stop in Chicago was Semicolon bookstore, a Black woman owned bookstore in River West. The store has a very homey vibe and the shelves are filled with every genre of Black literature a diaspora loving bibliophile like myself can enjoy. While there I bought a womanist poetry anthology: Wild Imperfections; I immediately sat down in the store to read and instantly felt I had started my trip off on the right foot.

Gallery Guichard in Bronzeville showcased dynamic art from across Africa and it’s diaspora, with an air of friendship and community wafting through the gallery as artists spoke of their drive to create.

Sofar Chicago’s Black History Month show in the historic building that was once Vee-Jay Records featured the incredible Mara Love. Mara blessed the audience with a deep soulful voice that seemed a serendipitous throwback to the legends who once recorded in the same space.

The American Writers Museum is an homage to literary legends and a muse to literary legends to be. There I learned: Your words will live forever, and will inspire the people your dreams are not even capable of imagining.

Slow is my poem reflecting on the many poems of Wild Imperfections that accompanied me around Chicago.


Your wild imperfection
you're perfectly wild

My companion
as I roam
this city
remind me
rest; read

Teach me
read, see, feel
the last word
the last touch
of ink on page

moving fingers
turn the page

I am
a slow learner
then become
slow, learning



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