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A Taste for the Beautiful: African Impact on American Culture
June 17, 2019 - November 23, 2019
Opens June 17, 2019 – November 23, 2019
In recognition of the statewide American Evolution: Virginia to America, 1619-2019 Commemoration and the City of Hampton’s First African Landing at Old Point Comfort Commemoration, A Taste for the Beautiful: African Impact on American Culture will highlight the art of three area artist-educators with West African roots as well as select works from the Hampton University Museum Collection and permanent African Gallery.
The guest artists, Kwabena Ampofo-Anti, Chinedu Okala and Solomon Isekeije, will share works that make a visual statement as scholar, Chika Okeke-Agula, states, “Africa remains for its artists a site of powerful imaginaries, a historical place to which they are bound by ancestry, and an idea that elicits powerful aesthetic and symbolic action.” The exhibition will bring to light the cultural narrative that has impacted the four hundred years of the experience of people of African descent in America. Kwabena Ampofo-Anti, currently a professor of Art at Hampton University was born in Mampong, Ghana and is a multi- media artist who will show his ceramic work. Chinedu G. Okala, Associate Dean of Art at Norfolk State University is from Nigeria who also works in media but will showcase his paintings. Solomon Isekeiji, Professor of Art at Norfolk State University is from Edo State (Benin Kingdom in Nigeria. Isekeije was born and raised in Lagos State in the western region of the country, among the Yoruba and also works in several mediums which will be highlighted in this exhibition.
Interest in the African roots of Hampton University students extends back to the school’s post-Civil War founding, nearly two hundred and fifty years after the 1619 arrival of the first Africans in Virginia. Several extraordinary collections currently on exhibit in the Museum’s African Gallery link early Hampton students to the continent. Dr. William H. Sheppard’s renowned Kuba collection is the earliest of its kind and The Koinange Collection is a rare example of objects selected by an African leader to represent his culture to a Western audience. Works from these and other collections have inspired Hampton’s students, perhaps most deeply the painter John Biggers. He became one of the first African American artists to visit Africa in 1957 and documented this UNESCO funded trip through a series of drawings. Works from some of the pioneers of contemporary African art including Nigerians Ben Enwonwu and Bruce Onobrakepya, South African Gerard Sekoto, Sudanese, Ibrahim El Salahi and Ethiopian, Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian. These works were gifts from the Harmon Foundation.