Special, Sacred, Magical… or Not: Mamahood is What We Make of It
Teshika “Tesh” Silver (she/they) is one of our Mamas Day 2023 artists who created two pieces of work guided by two of the four reproductive justice tenets. Tesh has been drawing and creating since she was a child, and making a profession from it almost half her life. Art, creativity, and design is literally all she does, and because of that, the language of art is easy for her to translate visually with stunning results. She created vivid, engaging visuals that radiate equity, love, and justice.
Read on to learn where Tesh’s inspiration comes from, and find more of their work on astratesh.com.
Through my Mamas Day art, I wanted to show that as Black people and people who mother, we should be free to make decisions for our own bodies that feel safe and healthy for us. This might include having children, this might not. You don’t have to be a birth mother to experience mothering. Mamahood is what we make of it.
I, myself, am a fairy godmother and an auntie to a lot of children – both human and nonhuman. Mamahood can be about bringing a new life into the world but it can also be about simply sharing your wisdom and creating spaces for growth and exploration. I believe Mamahood can be whatever we decide to make it: special, sacred, and magical, or none of those things.
There is so much beauty in having the freedom to decide how to be a mama, if you even want to be one. I wanted to portray both of these decisions through my art in a way that radiates joy, peace, and etherealness.
Artists are truly integral to movement spaces because we are conveying the world we want to see.
When I think of freedom, the first thing that comes to mind is flying, hence the Black fairy who is prominent and flying free into the night. The inspiration for that one also came from Luna Moths, which are these magical looking insects that don’t traditionally raise their young. This felt symbolic in that creatures and critters in nature get to experience autonomy in so many ways. My second piece shows the right to parent children in safe and healthy communities, and I wanted to focus on the various types of mamas that can be found in this natural, mystical realm.
So instead of there being one mother, there’s three mothers: The fairy mother who is taking care of a little one and then is also pregnant. To one side, there is a little mouse, and that mouse is a mother and has two little babies. Then on the other side is a bird, like a groundling bird in a nest, and it has three little babies. And so now there’s the narrative that was the freedom to have children in a safe and healthy community. Here are these creatures underneath a canopy of leaves in nature feeling safe, sheltered from rain and sun.
What I hope to convey in my pieces is the fact that nature has always found a way to survive and thrive here on Earth, and humans deserve the right to procreate or not as nature always intended.
My inspiration comes from everywhere – everyday life, people, images – but I am drawn to nature, so you’ll definitely notice a lot of botanical elements and greenery in my work. That’s because I have always loved being outdoors. I have memories of being a kid and spending hours upon hours alone in my backyard, just collecting random rocks and creating mud concoctions as I lived out my witchy fantasies.
For me, creating art – especially these two pieces – is about utilizing the power of imagination to manifest the world we deserve. When we’re constantly rallying and fighting against oppressive systems, it can be difficult to think of what comes next, but the future is always approaching.
When I think about what role artists have in movement work, I think about bell hooks’ quote, “To be truly visionary we have to root our imagination in our concrete reality while simultaneously imagining possibilities beyond that reality.”
Mamahood can be about bringing a new life into the world but it can also be about simply sharing your wisdom and creating spaces for growth and exploration.
Artists are truly integral to movement spaces because we are conveying the world we want to see. I want to continue being in partnership and community with other artists who are also those conduits between imagination and reality.
When you look at this Mamas Day artwork, I hope you see the future we are working to build – one where Black mamas, trans mamas, non-mamas, all of us exist. One where we experience an abundance of freedom and joy because, for me, the goal is always just joy.