If you seek “musings, hallucinations, fantasies, determinations and peregrinations that depart formal structures and do not recognize parameters,” then you need look no further than NĪNSHAR Arts, an open access online publication of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, paintings, drawings, etchings, photography, digital art, and sculpture images publishing on a rolling basis.
Under the direction of Editor Bessam Idani (he/him), an artist and political organizer from New York, NĪNSHAR Arts started with a group of young artists of color in Philadelphia “whose work,” Idani explains, “reflected our deep cultural heritages, histories of systemic oppression, and drive to break down traditional forms and invent new ones. Because of this, we did not fit the mold of most mainstream artistic and literary platforms. We therefore decided to launch a collective to support one another in our creations and establish a platform of our own to deliver our art to the world. At the same time, we opened this platform to all writers and artists from all specially oppressed layers of the working class around the world. We quickly found that this was an outlet which was needed, receiving submissions from throughout so-called North America, the Philippines, India, Puerto Rico, and the work of many gifted authors from Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa.”
The name, NĪNSHAR, Idani says, “comes from Ninshar is the Sumerian goddess of plantlife, whose name means ‘Lady Herb.’ This name is also a false cognate with the Arabic word ‘ninshur,’ which means ‘we publish.’ Joining Idani in this effort are designer Dontae Benn and social media/marketing manager Lena Gahwi.
Himself the author of two novels, Self and Under the Sun, and the composer or co-composer of three albums, “Nondivision,” “Heart, Mind,” and “Again-Awakening-Am,” Idani shared his experiences in working on a start-up publication. “The greatest joy has easily been the influx of work from regions of the world where the masses of people are struggling heroically against brutal repression and using their art to illuminate those experiences, such as in the #EndSARS movement in Nigeria. The greatest hurdle remains resources. There is a very narrow bottleneck in being a free, tiny publication operated by a very small team of dedicated artists, all of whom have many other obligations but who believe in this work as a labor of love.”
The result for readers and writers alike is a beautifully curated publication. Recent contributions include writing by Olaitan Humble, Karlo Silverillo Sevilla, John Gillespie Jr. (who also creates music as swim. søul) and visual art by Leslie Sakura, Ariel Howlett, and Irina Novikova.
As for the future of NĪNSHAR Arts, “We have conducted one crowdfunding campaign to get off the ground with modest success,” says Idani. “If we are able to expand, we can release a print edition of our platform, publish chapbooks, fiction and other print materials, have public events like pop-up galleries, and more.”
Idani encourages both readers and writers to visit the site often since they accept and publish submissions all year round. “Please keep sending your work. We want to see it!”
And so do the rest of us. Welcome NĪNSHAR Arts!