Friday, January 22, 2010

Marissa's Visual Diary: African Inspiration

Africa is the root of so much creativity which has spread throughout the world. Whether it's music, visual art, or fashion, you can find the presence of African aesthetics. I study a lot of images to feed my own creativity, and I wanted to share some of what I have in my "visual diary" that comes from Africa. The majority of these images were taken in two locations: The main library in Philadelphia had a wonderful exhibit of photography and sculpture over the summer that I was fortunate to get a look at, along with the Brooklyn Museum's permanent collection of African art. My work is heavily influenced by African imagery and sculpture, and I create facial markings, jewelry, and symbols for the characters I paint based on images such as these. Often it's not easy for African Americans to pinpoint what country in Africa they came from (although we do know that most descendants of those brought to the US during slavery have roots in West Africa), and my response to this has been to draw on the continent's rich cultural history and use my imagination to tell the story of my ancestors, powerful survivors and creators. My purpose is also to infuse the current phase of our journey with magic. Because as Mos Def says, we are living "life in marvelous times." I also must give honorable mention to Harlem's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. What a resource! They have a photo archive where you can go in and request photos from a particular group, era, or topic, and they'll bring out boxes and boxes of archived material. You can lierally spend a day there just looking and soaking up visual information. I recently spent time there viewing photos from Bahia in the 1800s.

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