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Kalamazoo Institute of Arts celebrates Black History Month through new exhibit featuring African art

Kalamazoo Institute of Arts: Black History Month
Posted at 6:28 PM, Feb 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-10 19:16:12-05

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — A West Michigan museum is celebrating Black History Month with a new exhibition called Africa, Imagined: Reflections of Modern and Contemporary Art.

It dives into how African artwork has impacted artwork in today's society.

In the exhibition, there are 92 pieces of artwork, including 12 loans from other places mostly in Michigan.

The pieces showcase African history and heritage while also showing the influences they've had on modern art.

"Looking at this exhibit and the month of February being Black History Month, Black history is American history," said Kalamazoo Institute of Arts' Chief Curator Rehema Barber.

It's a history being remembered, especially during Black History Month.

Barber said it's a month we may have not been able to celebrate without Carter G. Woodson.

"What he says is that the difference is looking at people’s cultures in terms of inferiority and superiority, like that is a mistake," said Barber.

The exhibit shows African artwork from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which tell stories of reclamation to the African culture, faith, spirituality, labor, economics and even the role of men and women.

"Art that is made by African-Americans or people who are from the African diaspora that is American art, and so when you look at something like African art and see the work is really rooted in a connection and community, that is really at the heart of a lot of the African artworks that you see on view," said Barber.

The collection's highlight was created by rising star and Michigan artist Conrad Egyir. The piece is called Irving's Class and honors the multi-faceted experiences of the African diaspora, pulling from those tough pieces of history.

"My work is often based off of history, political and religion from the subjects of the diaspora," said Detroit-based artist Conrad Egyir. "For the first parts of my life back in Ghana, we hardly saw representations of ourselves in media especially in LA, and so it is a big deal," he said.

Like Conrad, many of the other artists featured in the show are creating conversations with history, their heritages and other cultures to work towards a better understanding and appreciation for the African art.

"A lot of this work is really about it being activated by the people, activated by their communities. When you think about it, there is so many things in our own culture that if you don’t use them, they’re not... their value is not necessarily apparent," said Barber.

The exhibit will be open at the Kalamazoo Institute of Art until May 1. For more information, click here.

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