Having been born and raised in the Bronx, I’m always happy to go back, especially when super good things are happening. Which is how I came to be at the opening of the Bronx:Africa exhibit at the Longwood Arts Center at Hostos College. This was a wonderful exhibit of artists from Africa, living in the NY/NJ area, as well as American artists whose work connects to Africa. Photography was the dominant media, but there were also video, acrylic paintings, sculptures, digital prints and linocuts. The place was packed, but I got to speak with several of the artists.
Ibou Ndoye, who hails from Senegal, had two paintings on glass in the show, which he made using a scratching technique. His depiction of a Loabe mother and child enfolds the cultural differences he’s encountered: while in America, mothers carry their infants in the front of their bodies, in Ibou’s picture, as in Africa, the mother, in traditional dress, carries her baby on her back, so as to protect her child from danger. The colors he uses, pale yellow, grey, brown and black, are colors he associates with America, rather than the brighter ones you’re more likely to find in African painting and cloth. He’s also included scarification on his subjects’ faces, which in African tradition, allows you to know at a glance where, and what tribe, a person is from. As Ibou explained, “It’s an early form of barcoding.”
Howard T. Cash had some great photographs of important Nigerian cultural and political figures from the early 1980’s; it was his photos of Fela Kuti at The Shrine and the Coronation of Oba Erediuwa that caught my eye. I chatted with Howard, and it turns out we grew up not that far from each other! He left the Bronx to study in Los Angeles, then through “Operations Crossroads” studied in Ghana. He later opened a photo lab in Nigeria; when that closed, he stayed on as a free lance photographer for three years.
Janet Goldner is an American artist who regularly visits and works with artists in Mali. She had several small steel pieces, whose strong geometric motifs clearly showed influences of her time there.
Tammy Wofsey had only two pieces, but they were fabulous. I don’t see too many artists doing linocuts, and certainly not as large as these works. I wanna see more.
Eto Otigtibe works on aluminum, either painting it or treating it to yield some lovely geometric abstractions.
Thurston Randall had three great digital prints: I’ve got an interview with him in a separate post below.
Throughout the evening, Gambian musician Muhamadou Salieu Suso, delighted the guests with his mastery of the 21 stringed kora.
There’s lot’s more, and the show runs until May 4th. Make the time to see it.
There are also several talks with the artists scheduled for the coming months; you can find more information here