Nubian Heritage, New York
DECEMBER 09 – DECEMBER 12, 2005
DECEMBER 09, 6 – 10 PM
At a private gala and art exhibition held in honor of the democratically elected first female African President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, the distinguished art curator and consultant, Leslie Powell selected premium artworks from several African American contemporary artists working in different genres.
The event was hosted by the first African American Billionaire, former owner and CEO of Black Entertainment Television (BET), Robert Johnson.
Among the throng of business dignitaries present were leading plastic surgeon Dr Michael Jones and his wife, UPN Broadcast Journalist Cathleen Trigg-Jones, renowned art collector, educator and investor, Asake Bomani Glover.
Among the artists represented was the work of old masters like Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis and Jacob Lawrence. However, it was the riveting work of a young African artist named Nya′ that drew the attention of the deep-pocketed crowd.
On view were two paintings from the African contemporary artist, with the titles “Janitor of Inheritance” and “Custodians of Inheritance.” His deft combination of highly unconventional materials that include oxblood, animal dung, shards of metal, and natural pigments made from charcoal and river sand produces compositions that are instantly captivating, deeply reflective and mentally stimulating.
To achieve his purpose, the prodigious artist employs rich earthy colors that range from deep gold, terracotta, mahogany, visceral red, ivory and ebony brown. The colors are reminiscent of the African Savanna and the Algerian, Karoo and Sinai desert.
Using sharp razor blades and hand-made knives, similarly to the ones used for circumcision ceremonies among the young abakwetha (Xhosa male initiates) in South Africa and Kikuyu people of Kenya, Nya′ precisely inscribes delicate ink marks to highlight and accentuate key symbols, words and phrases that adorn his compositions.
The faces in his compositions, particularly in the largest work displayed, “Custodians of Inheritance” are rendered in a crude and reckless style reminiscent of the work of Jean Mitchell Basquiat. However, unlike the African American ephemeral star, Nya’s faces resemble a dignity of sorts and allude to a much more profound allegory mired in Christian faith and African mythology.
The carefully hand-stitched incisions subtly noticeable in Nya’s work, particularly in the piece entitled “Spiritual Purifiers” are made using tree twigs and resemble complex patterns and motifs from the "lihawu" or "sihlangu" war shields of the Swazi, Zulu and Ndebele tribes.
In conclusion, the work of this immensely gifted African artist exudes mature confidence and a sophisticated ambiance without the “calculated shock element” that has become the norm with many of his western contemporaries as they unashamedly seek attention and instant fame.
The work will be on display at the Nubian Heritage complex in Harlem, New York until December 28.
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