Cultural Images Matter: African Heritage In Diasporal Culture

 A book on African art and a mask from the Bamileke ethnic group in Cameroon are part of a collection by Bakari Sanyu that will be on display at the
A book on African art and a mask from the Bamileke ethnic group in Cameroon are part of a collection by Bakari Sanyu that will be on display at the “Sankofa Heartbeats: African Artifacts in Diasporal Culture” on Aug. 2 at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.

By Bakari Sanyu

Letter to the Editor

Cultural visual arts exhibitions are an important avenue to engage with our youth in practicing community ambassadorship about our collective identity. Cultural artifacts embody skilled artistry and visibly resonate with our Ancestors’ traditions, dignity, and tenacity. Artifacts exhibitions teach our youth to value, respect, envision, present, and cherish our collective African heritage and culture aesthetic, as well as visually demonstrate how to contextualize and self-validate the works, objectives, and standards of ancestral and contemporary multi-faceted artisans.

African artifacts also simultaneously identify our roots, reflect memories of collective  traditions, and serve as a catalyst to infuse the community with valuing, replicating, and preserving artwork that uplift identity, heritage and culture. Visual arts exhibitions hosted in an easily accessible community venue creates, disseminates, and celebrates positive self-dignity, self-respect, self-initiative, self-worth, self improvement, and self-investment to establish a vibrant cultural village. Cultural artifacts remind our community to refocus, learn about, restore and convey a “point of view”, appreciate our African heritage, as well as continue the persistent work and struggle necessary to maintain positive self imagery as a purposeful, collective, and productive way of life.

And if we do not choose to rise and become our own cultural ambassadors, then we should not be surprised or appalled when our collective image is maligned, distorted, stereotyped, and ravaged by others. It is essential that our community intentionally maintain a Black-owned and operated newspaper, stores, restaurants, shops, contractors, vendor and educational services, businesses, as well as various media genres, for much-needed space to exert influence, value, self-knowledge, and stature for presenting and circulating our dignity-affirming ancestral cultural artifacts, literature, music, programs, films, services, events, festivals, functions, and community archives, without compromise.

Cultural vitality reminds us that a wholesome community arises from a persistent social process which requires active year-round focused interactions with each other to facilitate intentional development and empowerment.

Cultural visual arts exhibitions spurs creativity and provides the community an opportunity to produce and sell their creative services and handiwork as vendors, entrepreneurs, and future businesses. It is also a basis for potential self-employment in diverse areas such as jewelry and graphic designers, residential and commercial decorators, painters, wood crafting, marketing, quilting, ceramicist, website creators, welder-sculptor, basketry, pottery, etc. Traditional cultural visual arts can bring much needed beauty, substance, and vibrancy to a community, as well as spark vigorous energy and collaborating wherewithal to expand civility, camaraderie, and connectivity to undertake mutually beneficial neighborhood improvement projects.

On Thursday, September 13, 2018, from 3 pm to 7 pm, a dazzling African Artifacts Exhibition will be held at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, located at 1000 S. Owens Street in Bakersfield. The community event is FREE and is hosted by the Harambee Art Gallery, New Spirit Women’s Group, and the City of Bakersfield Recreation and Parks. The theme of the September 13th cultural visual arts exhibition is, “Sankofa Heartbeats: African Artifacts In Diasporal Culture” The Harambee Art Gallery cultural exhibition consists of an eclectic collection of traditional African artifacts that includes ethnic sculptures, carvings, statues, masks, and a variety of other artifacts. You will enjoy viewing this magnificent backsplash of skilled artistry, graceful elegance, variety of styles, and incredible creativity of past and contemporary African artisans.

The purpose of the Harambee Art Gallery is to engage, inspire and uplift our community by advancing, promoting, creating, expanding, and providing visual arts exhibitions which embody, manifest, and positively affirm the message – “Cultural Images Matter!”. “Harambee”, the gallery’s name, is obtained from the east African language of Swahili and it means “let’s all pull together”. It is indeed an honor and a privilege to demonstrate this concept by teaming with the phenomenal New Spirit Women’s Group, and offer the cultural visual arts exhibition to our Bakersfield community-at-large.

Many special heartfelt thanks are extended to Mrs. Gerri Spencer for her dependable support and extraordinary community service, decade after decade after decade. The cultural visual arts exhibition functions to encourage our community to embrace self-imagery, support, join, and then actively work in a year-round grassroots community organization dedicated to collective uplift. We eagerly look forward to, and warmly welcome you in advance to the public viewing of this astonishing cultural visual arts exhibition, as well as to patronizing the engaging and enjoyable onsite community vendors which will offer a variety of exquisite cultural merchandise for public purchase.

Bakari Sanyu
Curator, Harambee Art Gallery
A community-based African Artifacts Gallery
Telephone or Text: (661) 319-7611