Cultural Artifacts: Images of Ancestral Memory

By Bakari Sanyu, Curator, Harambee Art Gallery

Letter to the Editor

Cultural artifacts convey riveting imagery which serves as a catalyst for infusing our community with a keen awareness of origin. Cultural arts provide a grounding visual “point of view” reflection on history, heritage, traditions and African culture. Positive self-imagery influences and galvanizes our community to embrace, embody, circulate, maintain, and manifest our collective experiences, narratives, traditions, and bonding. Cultural self-imagery invigorates our community’s moral duty and responsibility to actively be its own cultural ambassador and present visual markers that show collective ancestral memory, our intrinsic beauty, aspirations, ideas, and the impacts of our surrounding environment.

And if we do not choose to rise and become our own cultural ambassadors, then we should not be surprised or appalled when our self-imagery and history is maligned, distorted, stereotyped, truncated, discarded, omitted, and ravaged by others. It is essential that our community intentionally maintains a Black-owned and operated newspaper, stores, restaurants, shops, contractors, vendor and educational

services, businesses, as well as various media genres ownership. Infrastructure that serves our community is necessary so that we may present an uninhibited context and authentic perspective to exert influence and stature for presenting and circulating our dignity-affirming cultural artifacts, literature, music, programs, films, and community archives without compromise. The skills and artistry embodied in cultural artifacts visually remind us that a wholesome intact community encompasses unlimited potential. And an abundance of cultural artifacts can only be perpetuated within a positive, self-empowering, dignity affirming, self-reliant environment, steeped in extended cultural traditions, a nurturing social process, and fueled by committed people dedicated to focused development and collective uplift.

Cultural visual arts are an insightful resource for cultivating and expanding active harmonious

community engagement. Exhibitions are intended to encourage our community to refocus, to learnabout, be inspired by, and convey a “point of view” from our ancestral memory so that we may appreciate the context and struggle necessary to perpetuate Our-Story. Cultural visual arts exhibitions are avenues to engage our youth in practicing community ambassadorship. They teach our community youth to value, respect, envision, and cherish our collective history, heritage, and African cultural aesthetic, as well as demonstrate the necessity for affirming and self-validating the works, objectives, and standards of many under-recognized past and contemporary multi-faceted cultural artisans. Visual arts exhibitions hosted in an easily accessible community venue contribute to a vibrant cultural village that creates, disseminates, and celebrates positive self-dignity and self-value. The skilled artistry in cultural artifacts visibly resonate our Ancestors’ collective tenacity, history, and dignity.

Cultural artifacts prompt our collective community to deeply reflect and then harness what talent or ability we each possess to also create extraordinary self-imagery, resulting in vendors, entrepreneurs, and businesses within the community promoting more self-reflective handiwork. Vibrant traditional cultural visual arts give our community the vigorous energy and collaborating wherewithal to expand civility, respect, camaraderie, connectivity, and bonding, as well as expands motivation to undertake mutually beneficial neighborhood empowerment projects.

On Thursday, September 12, 2019, 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, California. Public admission is FREE and the event is hosted by the Harambee Art Gallery, New Spirit Women’s Group, and the City of Bakersfield Recreation and Parks. The Harambee Art Gallery cultural visual arts exhibition consists of an eclectic collection of exquisite traditional African artifacts that includes diverse ethnic sculptures, carvings, statues, drums, busts, baskets, and masks. You will enjoy viewing this magnificent backsplash of skilled artistry, graceful elegance, range of styles, and incredible creativity of past and contemporary African artisans.

The theme of the September 12th cultural visual arts exhibition is, “Sankofa Heartbeats: African Artifacts In Diasporal Culture”. Sankofa is an African heritage term from the Akan tradition in Ghana, West Africa, which means “to go back and retrieve it”. It is interpreted to mean that we as individuals, families, and a community must actively embrace the cultural challenge to go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward, and understand why, and how, we came to be who we are today.

The purpose of the Harambee Art Gallery is to engage, inspire and uplift our community with

exhibitions that advance, promote, create, and expand appreciation for cultural visual arts

presentations. “Harambee”, the gallery’s name, is an east African Swahili word which means “let’s all pull together”. The gallery is pleased to team with the phenomenal New Spirit Women’s Group to offer the cultural visual arts exhibition to our Bakersfield community-at-large. Many special heartfelt thanks are sincerely extended to Mrs. Gerri Spencer for her dependable support and extraordinary ongoing community service legacy. The visual arts exhibition is intended to encourage our community to rise, refocus, and present our endless narratives. We look forward to, and warmly welcome you in advance, to the viewing of this splendid cultural visual arts exhibition.

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