Odalo Wasikhongo

When Odalo Wasikhongo starts a painting, he doesn’t know how it will turn out.

“I don’t necessarily have an idea in mind, but I have a feeling inside, and I work from that feeling right there,” Wasikhongo said.

In exchange for paper and pen, he uses a canvas and brush to illustrate his thoughts.

“It’s almost like writing a story, but just painting it out, visually … making sure that it’s saying everything that I’m trying to say,” he said.

Wasikhongo is a member of Fresh Perspective Art Collective, a group made up of about 15 black male artists who are based in the southern Wisconsin area.

Using art, they seek to challenge negative stereotypes about black men.

“A lot of times we’re seen as being not so intelligent,” said Waskikhongo. “A lot of times, we’re seen as not being articulate. A lot of times we’re seen as being very violent and very dark; negative.”

The 37-year-old artist refers to his work as activation art.

“It’s about activating your soul, activating your spirit, activating your conscious thinking,” said Wasikhongo.

With vivid colors and bold strokes, Wasikhono uses his paintings to encourage self-exploration.

“Ultimately, what I want to do with it is present a reflection and at the same time challenge your thinking of what you are and how you see yourself,” said Wasikhongo.

He hopes each piece will prompt questions among those who observe his work.

“‘Who is this guy?’ That’s the question I really want them to ask so that we can really have that conversation … and then I can articulate what I’m really trying to say, and then they’ll see what a black man is,” said Wasikhongo.

Wasikhongo said his ultimate goal is to promote conversation among everyone who comes across his work — black or not.

An educator by day, Wasikhongo said he hopes his work paints a path of self-understanding for all.