In Another World We’re Happy; In Another World We’re Free

PUBLISHED October 12, 2020

Years ago I re-posted a series of stills from a short film on Tumblr. It was titled “For Black Girls With Depression” and had been posted by a user named GreenEuphorias. Stylistically the stills are compelling, with a solemn, nostalgic twinge. The captions read: “I’m still learning how to be kinder to my body, my mind and my soul. This is the only vessel I have to house my soul, so I must treat it with respect. I have to protect myself from the bad thoughts and fight for happiness.”

Credit: Dejah Greene

In 2016, when I encountered and re-posted the images, a seven year relationship was dissolving between my fingers, I had a mere few weeks to find a new apartment, and was completely uncertain about what to do next. It felt like the scaffolding of my identity was eroding. I was thankful, I imagine, to find a piece of art that I could connect to at that moment. Which is what the better parts of the internet have to offer–connection to others in a time when we’re desperate not to be alone.

So often we encounter things online that strike us, that resonate. And we like, save, or repost and then move on. But I had to know, in re-encountering these images years later, who was behind them?

That person is Dejah Greene. A Maryland born artist who spins worlds in her imagination and then brings them to life on the page. With an ache to process life and the confusion that often accompanies depression, Dejah turned to art. Her collages blend afro-exceptionalism with sci-fi surrealism to create Utopian worlds that honor and elevate black life. 

I’m so excited to share her words and her work here.

Tell us a little about your background

I am a semi-self taught photographer and artist from Maryland. I have been practicing photography for almost ten years and painting and doing digital art for about five. I fell in love with photography and painting as a way to express my feelings. I’ve always had a hard time verbalizing how I felt, so I started to use photos. 

What drew you to create these images?   

The inspiration came from me wanting to desperately escape this current world and the society we fight to survive everyday.

As a young, black woman who also suffers from mental illness it can be hard to navigate through the world when it seems like the world hates me

and my features. These collages allowed me to create a new world where I felt safe, loved and at ease.  

What are you saying through your artwork? 

I think what I’m saying is ‘please remember to be your authentic self as well as show love to yourself”. A lot of my collages are surrealist celebrations of Black greats and utopias of positivity and love. Sometimes I feel like Black individuals don’t get enough encouragement to be themselves and celebrate themselves. I want my collages to show that. 

You mentioned to me that you sometimes feel as though you are “navigating a narrative that is not mine.” What do you mean by this? 

Sometimes I feel like I have to put on many hats to appease the people in my life: my parents, my friends, my coworkers. Sometimes I feel like others have written a narrative for me that they are forcing me to fill. It can be exhausting because that isn’t me all the time or even at all. 

There is a surreal element to your art, something that creates a Utopian world for the characters who inhabit them – can you talk a little about that? 

I love fantasy worlds and the idea that we can create our own worlds. I wanted my collages to have a feel of surrealism in the sense that this is a Utopia where the subject or character has made their world personalized to them. Wouldn’t you want to create a world that is perfect for you and your loved ones? It may sound childish but I dream about that often.

What does Utopia look like for you?

Utopia to me looks like a place where all Black people, especially Black women are appreciated fully, authentically and outloud.

It would be a place where people have an abundance of emotional intelligence and the spirit to be kind.

You’ve done film work on depression in the past. Is this something you experience? 

I suffer from bipolar depression. It is one of the main reasons I am so passionate about art; I use art to express some of the bad feelings I have that come from my illness because I don’t feel like I can accurately describe it to people. Sometimes words aren’t enough to describe the dread, hopelessness, and worthlessness I often feel. I found comfort in creating art to deal with my depression. 

I was dealing with a lot of loneliness and destructive habits so art really helped bring me back to the surface. Living with bipolar depression as a Black woman can be very hard. Not only are we dealing with anxiety and depression personal to us, but we have to deal with the trauma of people who look like us being shot dead by the police, exploited, constantly passed over for white and non-black counterparts. It is so much to deal with and at times it is too much. But I am very grateful to have found something that can help fight these battles with me. 

P.S. There’s More

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