How do you taste memory? How do you connect to your history, your traditions and your ancestors? Up-rooted from ancestral lands, Africans arrived with their minds and cultural heritages intact despite the horrors of the “Middle Passage.” Enduring adversity, enslaved Africans put down roots in the soils of the Americas and grew new crops (as well as old) with resourcefulness and creativity. Africa’s contributions to the Americas are many. In particular, African foodways, as expressions of multiple ethnicities and histories, mixed and stirred with Indigenous American, European, and Asian foods to create distinctive hybrid culinary traditions.
The “main course” for this exhibition is the art of several African and African American artists inspired by their foodways and personal relationship with the land. The artists are: Sonya Y. Clark who, working with rice and beans, offers work that evokes her mother’s kitchen and favorite recipes, as well as sacred traditions of Yoruba people from West Africa; David C. Driskell -- distinguished artist and scholar of African American art and an avid chef and gardener -- has created a series of works on hand-made paper infused with the spices and fibers of his youth; Amos P. Kennedy Jr., printer and book-maker extraordinaire who is passionate about okra, has produced a series of prints with humor and wisdom; Kaylynn Sullivan TwoTrees, visual and performance artist of Native, Irish, and African American descent, has created a series of handmade papers infused with beeswax and honey collected from all over the country to reflect our dwindling pollinators and the fate of our lands; Michele Tejuola Turner, renowned for her unique carved and painted gourd sculptures, has created memorials to her mothers and grandmothers, and to the land of their birth; and Bolaji Campbell, former Avery Research Center Fellow who now teaches at RISD in Providence, RI, has done a series of paintings on foods for the gods (orisa) among his ancestors, the Yoruba.