Founded 2010

This Blog is an On-line Course of study that focuses on the material culture of ~ AFRICAN AMERICAN TRADITIONS,

Thursday, April 23, 2015


JANET TAYLOR-PICKETT: who's mixed media art is  is an exploration of the garment as a metaphor for identity.

Mixed media, in visual art, refers to an artwork in the making of which more than one medium has been employed.
ALISON SAAR: Mo'fro, 2006
wood, tin & barbed wire
33 x 21 1/2 x 18 in. [83.8 x 54.6 x 45.7 cm]

"Having something to say is much more important. The medium you use [to say it with] is secondary."

There is an important distinction between "mixed-media" artworks and "multimedia art". Mixed media tends to refer to a work of visual art that combines various traditionally distinct visual art media. For example, a work on canvas that combines paint, ink, and collage could properly be called a "mixed media" work, but not a work of "multimedia art." The term multimedia art implies a broader scope than mixed media, combining visual art with non-visual elements (such as recorded sound, for example) or with elements of the other arts (such as literature, drama, dance, motion graphics, music, or interactivity).

 ABOVE: ALISON SAAR sculpture, paintings and installations using cast-off objects address themes of the African diaspora and spirituality. Join Saar for a discussion of selected works by Nick Cave, exploring parallels to her own work and working process. 

When creating a painted or photographed work using mixed media it is important to choose the layers carefully and allow enough drying time between the layers to ensure the final work will have structural integrity. If many different media are used it is equally important to choose a sturdy foundation upon which the different layers are imposed.
A phrase sometimes used in relationship to mixed media is, "Fat over lean." In other words: "don't start with oil paints. Plan to make them the final layer."

Many effects can be achieved by using mixed media. Found objects can be used in conjunction with traditional artist media to attain a wide range of self-expression.

Some children's picture books 
also utilize mixed media illustrations. For example, Romare Bearden: Collage of Memories by Romare Bearden.

ROSALIND NZINGA NICHOL: Mixed Media Papermaker and abstract expressionist. My work is focused on poured pulp compositions and structures. ..My intent is to leave room in my work for personal interpretation. Paper is organic, and the things that touch us don't always have to be concrete or verbal. 
Above: American Family  2011, Mixed Media Handmade Paper, embedded with antique textiles / threads, and  acrylic paint. approx. 19"W X 35"H 



Romare Bearden, Black Madona and Child, 1969

Collage (From the French: coller, to glue) is a technique of making art from scraps and other bits of miscellaneous materials. A collage may include newspaper clippings, ribbons, bits of colored or handmade papers, portions of other artwork or texts, photographs and / or other found objects. The assemblage of materials are then glued to a piece of paper or canvas...

Monday, April 13, 2015



African American crafts consisted of pottery, metalworks, wood working, textiles (quilting), and architecture... These were the prominent crafts Africans brought with them to America.

Fine arts consist of: sculpture, painting, graphics, printmaking, and dance. In other words these disciplines are most often developed skill sets acquired by scholarly pursuits. 

Crafts on the other hand are considered skills acquired by handwork on functional objects. Today however the line between what is fine art and what is craft has been blurred by the use of mixed media art creations, and the exceptance of craft objects into museums and galleries as hight art forms.

Early Fine Arts:
The end of slavery marked the beginning of many advances in the African American community including the advent of a middle class interested in acquiring material culture of their own. That demand was met by the art of many artists. Most prominent among them Edward Bannister, Henry O. Tanner, Edmonia Lewis, and Josuha Johnson to name a few.

The story of Joshua Johnson's work was obscure and almost lost in history because his paintings were primary of wealthy white patrons. Until recent twenty-first century scholarship he was thought to be white...

Painting by Joshua Johnson, early African American portrait artist

fine arts unit includes:
African American Institutions


History of the Lukasa

The story of the lukasa is closely associated with the history of the Luba kingdom, which dominated most of northern Shaba during the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century. No candidate for political office could receive his title without first becoming a member of the Bambudye society, and the ruler of the Luba kingdom held the highest ranking Bambudye title. Reefe states that while it is not possible to date the origins of the lukasa, the high degree of integration of the lukasa into the structure of the Bambudye society and into the oral lore of the Luba kingdom strongly suggests that this art form is of considerable antiquity.

A Luba memory device

Central to Luba artistry, lukasa aids memory and the making of histories. Stools, staffs, figures, and complex choreographies complement the lukasa as Luba culture is remembered, produced, and transformed.

Lukasa memory boards are hourglass-shaped wooden tablets that are covered with multicolored beads, shells and bits of metal, or are incised or embossed with carved symbols.[1]The colors and configurations of beads or ideograms serve to stimulate the recollection of important people, places, things, relationships and events as court historians narrate the origins of Luba authority. A lukasa serves as an archive for the topographical and chronological mapping of political histories and other data sets.[2]

Lukasa are approximately the same size (20-25 centimeters long and about 13 centimeters wide) and have the same rectangular dish shape. A row of carved mounds called lukala runs across their concave surface, dividing it in half. Beads and shells are attached to the board by small slivers of wood or hand-made iron wedges driven through their centers, and cowrie shells are frequently attached at the top and bottom. Beads are arranged in three ways: a large bead surrounded by smaller beads, a line of beads, and one isolated bead. Each configuration lends itself to the transmission of certain kinds of information. Board surfaces also have holes and lines cut into them.

Court historians knows as bana balute ("men of memory") run their fingertips across the surface of a lukasa or point to its features while reciting genealogies, king lists, maps of protocol, migration stories, and the great Luba Epic, a preeminent oral narrative that records how the culture heroes, Mbidi Kiluwe and his son Kalala Ilunga, introduced royal political practices and etiquette.[2] For Luba, how an object looks dictates how well it works.[3]

Culture heroes are identifiable by beads whose colors have a fan of connotations triggering remembrance of their deeds and exploits, as well as their qualities and physical appearance. For example, Nkongolo Mwamba, the tyrannical anti-hero of the Luba charter, is always represented by a red bead, for he is the red-skinned rainbow-serpent associated with bloody violence. Blue beads (considered "black") stand for Mbidi Kiluwe, the protagonist and culture-bearer of kingship whose skin is shiningly black like that of a bull buffalo, symbol of ambivalent power and secret potential.[4] The paths of Luba migration and significant events and relationships are indicated by lines and clusters of beads. Chiefs and their counselors, sacred enclosures, and defined places are shown by circles of beads.[5]

Monday, March 16, 2015

SIGNS & SYMBOLS: Part II ~ African Images in African American Quilts

Special thanks to our guest speaker Wednesday, March 18th: 
Glendora Simonson 
of the Nubian Heritage Quilter's Guild
Exerts from 
SIGNS & SYMBOLS: African Images in African American Quilts 
by Maude Southwell Wahlman

This week we are looking at a study of symbols that impact African American traditions. The  above publication is the result of years of research study and travel to rural communities in the South, by author Maude Southwell Wahlman, who begin to analysis the relationship between African symbols and its American counter part in African American quilts... 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

LECTURE #3 :: SIGNS & SYMBOLS: Part I Adinkra West African Symbols

Our study of signs and symbols that have impacted African American traditions began with a survey of the stereotypical images in the DVD: "Ethnic Notions." How generations of African Americans were portrayed as the Mammy, Uncle, Coon, Pickaninny, or Sambo. Restrictive models and myths that characterized the African as fun loving, indifferent dancing darkies without dreams, born to serve the white populations of western society. Physically exaggerated caricatures who were either docile or savage depending on the political and social agenda of the time. Symbolism with such far reaching impact, that remnants of those stereotypes still remain to this present day...

Monday, February 2, 2015

LECTURE #2: Colonial America and the Gullah Culture....

Painting by Joshua Johnson, early African American portrait artist

Exerts from LECTURE and VIDEOS...
1700 -1820

When John Hawkins returned to England in 1562 with several hundred slaves captured in a buccaneering raid on the Spanish Main, Queen Elizabeth pronounced the deed 'detestable' and predicted that it would 'call down vengeance from heaven upon the undertakers of it.' But the when the profits which such ventures would bring were pointed out, she demurred in future opposition. Nonetheless, the English were of no significance in the Atlantic slave trade until almost a century later.

Slavery was crucial to the formation the of African-American identity, as well as the American identity.... Shaping the lives of white and black Americans, and providing the context in which the nation's economy, political and society context was developed... You have to understand, that in the midst of this economy driven depraved system of buy and selling human beings, American material culture was being born...

PROJECT #1 The African Mask (omitted)

Mask called "Obalufon", 14th-early 15th. century copper

Iron Technology

The use of iron and development of its technology in Benin kingdom has had influences in the state-building process. Iron technology led to the development of weapons which changed the character of war. Generally, in West Africa, the states that rose to power in the period between 1400 and 1700 AD such as Benin, Nupe, Igalla, and Oyo in present day Nigeria, dominated others partly because of the advantages in the development of iron technology. The earliest known iron working in sub-Saharan Africa was discovered at the site of Taruga in present day Central Nigeria, where an advanced iron technology existed as early as the sixth century BC. Archaeological excavations unearthed a number of iron-smelting sites at Taruga, with radiocarbon dates from the fifth to the third centuries BC.

Thursday, January 22, 2015



THESE READINGS ARE NOT FOUND IN YOUR COURSE TEXT. The Following articles are meant to provide a foundation for all that we will study this semester. PLEASE READ THESE TWO ASSIGNMENTS BEFORE BEGINNING READINGS AND IN CLASS WORK:
(click words below to link to article.)