Shanna Strauss is a Tanzanian-American-Canadian mixed media artist. She grew up in Tanzania and later moved to the United States, then Canada where she lived for 12 years. Her experience of living in and navigating multiple geographical spaces, cultures, languages and histories has greatly informed her practice. Shanna’s work explores oral tradition, family legacy, ancestral memory and spirituality in African diasporic traditions, paying homage to the women in her family and communities.
In Shanna Strauss’ matrilineal lineage, bees are sacred. She grew up with stories and songs of Leti, her Nyaturu woman warrior ancestor, who fought against German Colonizers in Tanzania. Revered for her strength and battle tactics, she led men and organised successful rebellions until she was eventually killed by the Germans. Her weapon of war was bees. The Nyaturu women in Strauss’ family are beekeepers who pass down sacred stories of Leti and her traditional ways of existing. The print The Visit is an ode to the beekeepers and to the future ancestor Strauss strives to be, guided by Leti and the ancestral wisdom passed down to her.
Through her work, Shanna Strauss traverses the interconnected pathways between the physical and spiritual world, past, present and future. Fusing visual language with storytelling, she carries forth the oral teachings gifted to her. Her printmaking process, which combines different techniques and materials, is layered and intricate. The variations within each edition are intentional, where the layered materials slightly differ, conjuring different visual experiences and emotions.
Public art and community engagement are also part of Shanna Strauss’ practice. Her commitment to radical social transformation has inspired the creation of collaborative projects and public murals that centre on the experiences and stories of BIPOC individuals and communities. Her public artworks can be seen in Montreal, Tucson, San Francisco, El Cerrito and Sacramento.