Kalimah, easily the quietest of the group, is probably the easiest to peg down of the four. She sings, dances and acts, but mostly, you’ll see her behind the scenes, usually with a camera. Photography, videography, editing, producing… Nearly every event an Abioto is part of is going to include Kalimah, diligently capturing every moment.
Her focus right now is filmmaking and she is an experienced editor. Her (rather impressive) resume credits her with everything from creating her own projects, like the 2min Dream Series and The People Could Fly, to custom production and editing work for clients around the world, to a stint as a production assistant during the filming of Spike Lee’s Miracle at St. Anna (yeah, that Spike Lee). Suffice it to say, the girl knows her stuff.
Kalimah tells me she’s currently developing her skills in editing music videos and that she’s collaborating on a couple of videos for local artists right now. But even though she spends most of her time and energy on camera and production work, Kalimah is still hesitant to give you a simple explanation of who she is and what she does.
“What am I working on right now?” she murmurs. “Well, you know, lots of things. Filmmaking. Editing. Learning things. Living. Exploring. Being.”
That’s kind of the Abioto “thing.” Learning things. Living. Exploring. Being.
The Abioto girls have brought to Portland exactly what Portlanders not-so-secretly wish to be. They came for the quirky but neutral, “almost European” character and stayed to sell vegan food. They’re free spirits. Curious minds. Adventurous spirits. They’re spiritual without being religious. They’re open minded. Their circle is diverse and colorful. They are neighborly. They bike. They drink tea. They travel. They are independent, unique and, yet, community-driven. They’re always themselves.
When I ask what they think of Portland now that they’ve been here for a while, and if they feel as though they’ve found their “place” in the city, Hanifah shrugs. “It’s definitely different here. Definitely different. But we’re still us. I’m me wherever I am.”
Hanifah Abioto is the sister who will tell you that she’s “shy.” If you saw her at The Blackest Night, you might’ve missed that. She was dancing, singing, emcee-ing, creating loop beats with Amenta, improvising songs about not giving a shit, and managing the stage. The next day, she explained, “I’m not really like that!”
I’m not going to argue with any artist about their stage presence, but I will say, Hanifah is another Abioto sister with a lot to show off. She sings, she models, she acts, she’s a graphic and digital designer. Sure, she might be quiet sometimes, but her work generates its own noise.
“At the moment I am working on an interdisciplinary ArtsProject: 3³ which is comprised of visual art, writing, music, taste, smell, sensation,” says Hanifah. “I really like the idea of a full on art experience… I’m very much a connoisseur of beautiful sensations and so I just wondered what I could come up with.”
In her spare time, she’s helping Intisar crowd source support to maintain and expand The Black Portlanders beyond photojournalism and into a community engagement project. Lately, she’s been organizing behind the scenes and also curating The Black Portlanders’ eclectic weekly listening series, a cool, easy meander through obscure blues and jazz tracks, pop hits, hip hop beats, African rhythms, oldies-but-goodies, and everything in between.
“Beyond that, I am working on forming a High Arts Collective. I’ll be launching an organic skin care line this Spring/Summer. I just completed a couple of children’s books (and am looking for a publisher) while writing a Young Adult Fantasy Novel…”
It’s pretty safe to say, the Abioto sisters are well on their way to taking over the Portland arts scene. And they’re not even trying. Whether or not they ever attract commercial attention, Amenta, Kalimah, Hanifah and Intisar are the stuff of legends, each a force to be reckoned with in their own right. Creating community and art projects with a certain cultural proficiency, soul and honesty that Portland doesn’t often see, they leave an indelible impression wherever they go
When I tell Intisar how amazing I think they are, she insists, “I mean, really, we’re just people. People who do things… We’re just being.”
Note: In order to continue building The Black Portlanders project, Intisar Abioto has launched an Indiegogo fundraiser. Please consider supporting this exciting artist as she documents the experiences of the Black community in Portland.