Exhibitions - Close to Home

Nsenga Knight
Close to Home

05.19.24 – 01.19.25

An installation view of Nsenga Knight's exhibition

Installation view, "Nsenga Knight: Close to Home" (May 19, 2024 - January 19, 2025). Photo courtesy Queens Museum, credit Hai Zhang.

Close to Home is an installation that honors the domestic space as a custodian of cultural and spiritual traditions by providing support and comfort to forge appreciation for heritage and their continuity. Modeled after Nsenga Knight’s family residences from their past six years living in Cairo, Egypt, the installation’s eclectic atmosphere reflects the historic and cosmopolitan. While furnished in various materials and styles, old and new, this family home is also adorned with artifacts from the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair as well as artworks by Knight, including paintings, prints, videos, and wallpaper. 


A Brooklyn-born Afro-Caribbean American Muslim artist, Knight researched the Queens Museum’s 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair Archives with a focus on the representations of the then-newly postcolonial Islamic African and Caribbean nations. The historical trajectory of these nations and their influence on Black Americans has emerged as the central focus of her exhibition.


Knight presents this exhibition as both a home and a forum for “Peace Through Understanding,” echoing the theme of the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair. She extends this concept into the exterior section of the installation. Hovering above are words initially spoken by martial arts masters at the SWAM Academy of Modern Martial Arts in South Jamaica, Queens. Transcribed by Knight word-by-word, these “poems” encapsulate their wisdom about self defense, spirituality, and ethical integrity imparted at the renowned Black Muslim-owned dojo. The act of safe-keeping and hope for peace extends to the toy paragliders in the exhibition. These airborne devices carry complex yet arbitrary layers of symbolism related to the Museum’s building history. The New York City Building housed the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1947 when they passed Resolution 181 to partition Palestine into Arab and Jewish states. By juxtaposing SWAM poetry with paragliders and parachutes, Knight considers how to position peace and safety amidst conflict and oppression.


Food culture also played a pivotal role in the World’s Fair. Close to Home will host a scheduled series of social gatherings by serving tea and coffee in this installation. With this act of hospitality, Knight calls on viewers to consider the power of sensorial and experiential engagement to foster understanding, connection, and appreciation among people from various corners of the world.


Close to Home is curated by Hitomi Iwasaki, Director of Exhibitions/Curator.


Nsenga Knight (b. Brooklyn, New York, 1981) is an In Situ Artist Fellow at the Queens Museum. She earned an MFA from University of Pennsylvania and a BA from Howard University. She has exhibited her work internationally, including: Contemporary Image Collective, Cairo, Egypt (2022); Drawing Center, New York, NY (2017, 2016); Project Row Houses, Houston, TX (2015); New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, NY (2011); among others. Knight is a recipient of grants from Pollock-Krasner Foundation (2019), Foundation for Contemporary Art (2016), Brooklyn Arts Council (2007). She was an artist-in-residence at BRICworkspace, Brooklyn, NY (2019); and Film/Video Arts Center, New York, NY (2005) among others. She lives and works in New York.


Nsenga Knight: Close to Home is made possible in part by lead support from the Mellon Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Ford Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Queens Museum Exhibitions Circle.


The Queens Museum is housed in the New York City Building, which is owned by the City of New York.


The Museum is supported, in part, by public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with Mayor Eric Adams, the Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, and the New York City Council under the leadership of Speaker Adrienne E. Adams.


Major funding is generously provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies, Ford Foundation, Hearst Foundations, Jerome Foundation, Lambent Foundation, MacMillan Family Foundation, Mellon Foundation, E.A. Michelson Philanthropy, New York Community Trust, Richmond County Savings Foundation, and Rockefeller Brothers Fund.