Last Thursday I managed to attend two pop up exhibitions, one in Harlem from The Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI), and the other in the Lower East Side, Nicole Vassell-curated Black Eye exhibit.
The Spirit of El Barrio: Past, Present and Future exhibition was The Caribbean Cultural Center first in a series of events that will take place at the old firehouse at 120 East 125th street in Harlem. The center is renovating the firehouse to be the new location of their center and this event was an introduction into this new space. Opening with speeches from founder Marta Moreno Vega, New Harlem East Merchants Association (NHEMA) Program Director, Adriane Mack and NHEMA and Community Board 11 member, Holly Drakeford, in the first tour and New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in the second, the exhibition featured art from Adrian Roman, Edgardo Miranda, Manny Vega, Oliver Rios and Yasmin Hernandez, as well as a live painting from Edgardo Tomas Larregui Rodriguez.
Besides being in the presence of gorgeous artwork, the steel pan music and the wearing of hard hats, the exhibition had a special treat which was the Augmented Reality technology (virtual visuals) from the Layar app. Layar is kind of like an updated version of a qr code, except that the added information is embedded in the artwork and not in a small box outside of it. When the image is scanned, another image or video pops up. This exhibition was a small preview to one of the future opening exhibitions of CCCADI in addition to an upcoming art auction.
In the reception in between the tours, Vega and other members of CCCADI emphasized the importance of an organization like this. As the organization reaches its 40th anniversary, Vega funnily quipped after 4 decades she feels a bit old and that the move to Harlem is to continue showing their fabulous selves to the community. She has appreciated all the wonderful people she has met and worked with over the years, and has had so many wonderful moments that she cannot even choose one. Later she added in the reception that we need places like this as a way to validate ourselves because we do not need to compare ourselves to anyone else; our communities and homes should be our sacred spaces and museums.
Before I left, an elderly Bahamanian man passed by and was interested in attending the event. He talked to me for a bit about the need for places like this. He said how in The Bahamas parts of his culture is made into tourist attractions, but rarely do people dig deeper into the real aspects of the culture. And I am sure it is like this all over the diaspora, which is why CCCADI is a special safe space where our voices and cultures can be celebrated and remembered.
Below are more pictures and artwork from the event:
Before it closed, I rushed to attend the pop up exhibition, Black Eye, which featured work from Sanford Biggers, Wangechi Mutu, Hank Willis Thomas, Nick Cave, Steve McQueen, Kehinde Wiley, and Jacolby Satterwhite. It was interesting to see how these various artists play with and confront identity in their works. Below are a few photos I took at the exhibition:
Barbados Cultural Fact of the Day: Previously I mentioned the Mother Sally costume that is part of Barbados celebrations. Another is The Donkey Man. The Donkey Man costumes are shaped like legless donkeys that the costume wearers provide the legs and look like they are riding the donkeys. The dancers in the costumes simulate the energetically moving animal. Having origins in Africa, the costume was “adopted to symbolize the importance of the donkey in the sugar cane crop.” Other parts of the Caribbean have similar masquerades; for example in Jamaica, it is known as horse head.
Please donate and/or share my fundraiser for Atlantic Impact’s Abroad for a Cause Challenge in which the organization is inviting two bloggers to travel with them to Barbados this summer. Atlantic Impact is an organization that helps at risk youth by giving them opportunities to travel abroad.