Artist Spotlight: Movement & Visual Artist JaHmal Nugent

If you see Jahmal Nugent around Toronto, he’ll most likely have a camera in his hand and the top of his afro is a honey blonde. He is a movement and visual artist.

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Nugent has been breakdancing for seven years and done photography for about three years. Nugent is Jamaican and St.Lucian but was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. “I really like to express myself through my creativity, the moves that I create and the things that I put together as well. It allows me to stay active creatively,” says Nugent.

Nugent is a part of the 2017-2018 Community Artist Leadership program at Sketch. The program is a residency, training and employment for emerging artists between the ages of 18 and 29. Artists who have a passion for visual arts, music, installation, ceramics, performance and digital art can apply. One thing Nugent appreciates from the program is that it is more than just a textbook experience.

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“It wasn’t necessarily just training for a specific job, it was more training for real life scenarios which is more beneficial,” said Nugent. Working with the other community artists, Nugent says that he has been able to acknowledge other artists’s experiences in life and with art. “Being able to know that someone has been through something that you haven’t is one thing; but being able to acknowledge that you may never be able to experience or understand what their going through, I feel, is so much more important because there’s times when you have to give space to that person,” says Nugent.

“Some people who can’t understand something may think it’s wrong, but it may not be wrong, it’s just something that they can’t comprehend.”

What Nugent loves the most about dancing is that it allows the dancer to express their pain and their happiness. “In the past, street dancing was used to kind of get away from what was going on in the world, political issues, or the fact that they were living in the projects,” said Nugent. Breaking into the photography industry can be extremely difficult when equipment can be expensive and everyone is competing against each other to get the best photo to post on their social media platform. “I worked 2 jobs at first so that I would be able to afford equipment. You work so many hours but you pay your phone bill and your travel expenses - so by the end of the month you really only have $40 left. It’s definitely hard and it will take time, but it’s totally doable,” said Nugent.

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Nugent tries to keep his photography fun and creative. He stays away from what’s ‘normal’ or ‘typical.’ In the professional photography industry, many photographers are white males. As a young, black photographer in Toronto, Nugent wants to ensure that his photos say “Black people can do this too.” Often when Nugent attends photo walks in Toronto, which are networking events for mainly young photographers, he is greeted by other black photographers. “They’ll say to me, ‘You’re the Ninjahmal guy! I love your work! It’s always good seeing another person of colour doing this thing.’ I want my voice to be part of the other black photographers who say ‘we’re here’,” said Nugent.

“Sometimes people will undermine that, but I believe we got to keep doing our thing and it’s going to be noticed.”

check out Nugent's photography on instagram here 

Joel Zola