Sankofa is an Akan word that means,
“We must go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward;
to understand why and how we came to be who we are today.”
Mutope J. Johnson, is one of the distinguished artists included in the Wisconsin 30. The “thirty” make up the complementary exhibition being held in conjunction with 30 Americans–the nationally-acclaimed documentary of works that address issues of racial, sexual, and identity–and its powerful influence on contemporary culture.
I have been blessed to work with Mutope over the last several years. He is an exceptional artist, my great mentor, and friend. I have included excerpts from his artist statement here because it provides insight on the “what” and “why” of his current works and also serves as an introduction to my upcoming poetry page.
“The current narrative centered around my work focuses on the contributions of the poet and how collaborations with literary artists can help to inform art work in a more interesting way. The works in progress feature drawings, paintings and relief print studies predominately including the use of the color Indigo. The investigation of the color blue not only allows me the opportunity to respond to the issues around pigment as metaphor, it also becomes an artistic strategy for presenting painting and drawings in a format that promotes the conversation of history and culture.”
“Many of these memories have been revisited because of recent conversations about an area of Milwaukee known as The Bronzeville District, a North side neighborhood where I grew up as a youth. The neighborhood was labeled blighted property where it was targeted and destroyed through the city government’s eminent domain policies. This once vibrant cultural district was replaced with the I-43 freeway which cut right through the heart of Bronzeville, tearing down homes and businesses and displacing families.”
“I understand that my paintings and drawings may not solve any problems long or short term, and what I advocate through my work only represent a small part of a much larger conversation. However, through collaboration and helping to amplify the voice of the poet through visual art, I may be able to contribute to the debate in a positive way, and in the process, grow personally as an artist and strengthen my own creative commentary on subjects like the Bronzeville District controversy through my work as an artist.” Mutope Johnson