A New Storyteller in the Art Department: Kahlil Pedizisai

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The artist behind the mask

Camille Lubach, Staff Writer

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“Wherever I land, I’m always looking at the world, trying to understand ‘Where am I?’ and, most importantly, ‘How do I engage with this place in order to leave it better than I found it?’” Kahlil Pedizisai said. 

The Lacroute visiting artist began teaching in the fall at Linfield University. Pedizisai has been working with film and video for nearly 30 years, which he describes as the medium through which he seeks and shares stories. If all goes to plan, he will teach an experimental film course in the fall.

In addition to teaching the Digital Color Photography class, Pedizisai is assisting the theater department in the production of A Night In New Orleans. Janet Gupton, associate professor of theater and communication arts aims to make the show accessible to more people during the pandemic.

She said Pedizisai is a great asset to the production, “He is such a reassuring presence as we navigate these new waters in our program, offering solutions and making suggestions as to how we can accomplish what we hope to do. What a gift to our Linfield community.”

In the past, Pedizisai worked with the University of Virginia to produce the Black Fire Series which “told the history of what it meant throughout time to be a member of the UVA community as an African American,” he said. 

In his work with the UVA and now, Pedizisai is fascinated with storytelling of the past and present, “I can’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t concerned in history, in people, in culture, in music,” he said. 

When asked to list his favorite film, Pedizisai groaned at the idea of narrowing it down to just one. Instead, he chose three examples. First, Daughters of the Dust directed and produced by Julie Dash: “I hate to actually move my hands across my DVD selection because if I see it, I have to stop and put it in,” he said. “Visually and thematically, it is just a pure delight.” 

Second, Pedizisai expressed his love for Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Magnolia.” Lastly, he highlighted Black Audio Film Collective, now named Smoking Dogs Films. 

In addition to connecting with the theater department, Pedizisai has already formed friendships in the Miller Fine Arts Center. From their conversations shared in the art history building, department chair Brian Winkenweder described Pedizisai as an “engaged and engaging academic and intellectual being that I can have a back-and-forth with.”

Pedizisai shared the same sentiment for his colleague, “Brian is sharp. Brian isn’t just a person who understands art history—which is a bonus—Brian is also a person who has a great understanding of cultural history,” he added. 

With his “can-do spirit,” said Winkenweder, Pedizisai has immersed himself in the Linfield art community.

Pedizisai said, “It’s one thing to have professors who like to talk about ideas, but to be action-oriented is a different thing.” 

Furthermore, students in the digital color photography class are engaging with Pedizisai’s enthusiastic energy. Sophomore economics major Sam Brinda said, “He’s one of those people you can talk to for five minutes and feel like you’ve known them for a long time. To me, these are characteristics representative of someone who is invested in their work and wants to see students succeed.” 

Pedizisai’s photography class has already taken on some exciting endeavors this spring. Pedizisai and his students made an Instagram account to display their photos. Soon, the class will be revealing a series in response to disconnection caused by the pandemic. The project’s intention is “to bridge those gaps and at the same time create this sense that there is a wonderful, beautiful, unexpected nature to life,” Pedizisai explained.