[...] It’s a Friday night at the Eaton Hotel in downtown D.C., and Tsedaye Makonnen is arriving with her 10-year-old son, Senai. They head past the lobby and up to a quiet, spacious room on an upper floor, where her latest work spreads across the floor — a massive tapestry, the fourth installment of her lauded Astral Sea series.
Senai heads to a table in the vast, lounge-like coworking space next door. He turns to a page in his notebook to sketch Naruto characters while watching the popular anime show on his laptop, his imagination running wild.
Makonnen gets to work carefully placing mirror acrylic shards on the cloth. The pieces are laser-cut from another project of hers — light sculptures that memorialize women who’ve died while migrating from East Africa across the Mediterranean and Black women who have died at the hands of police brutality in the U.S. She plans to bring the piece to life in videos and live performances — as she’s done with the previous three installments — by wearing the fabric and moving unpredictably so the shards crash and fall off, embodying the violence Black women have endured over time. Makonnen, a 36-year-old raised in Silver Spring, draws upon her Ethiopian heritage, cosmology, and her experiences as a Black mother to create this unfiltered performance art. [...]