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Far Away and Right Here: Deep South Tales and Central District Families

Don’t miss the two special exhibitions at the Northwest African American Museum! In the main Northwest Gallery are Daniel Minter’s delightful hand colored woodcarvings, the basis for illustrations for several of his children’s books. Inye Wokoma’s display in the smaller “Paccar Gallery,” beyond the permanent installation, creates a collage about the life of his family in the Central District and by extension the complexity of gentrification and its forces.

Minter’s original carved wooden blocks and linoleum cuts used as the basis for reproductions allow us insights into the physicality of his unusual technique. Minter comes from Southern Georgia. His art poetically invokes and preserves the stories and symbols of the rural deep South as a way of bridging the distance from the original African diaspora to the present and preserving them for the future.

“New Year Be Coming, A Gullah Year” illustrates poems by Katharine Boling inspired by the rhythmic cadences of the Gullah people of coastal Georgia and South Carolina. Each month represents a different activity that culminates finally in the New Year with its traditional food of “hopping john” (made from black eyed peas.)

Daniel Minter, illustration for Bubber Goes to Heaven by Arna Bontemps early 1930s.

“Bubber Goes to Heaven” is based on a 1930’s story by famous Harlem Renaissance writer Arna Bontemps. Bubber falls unconscious while pursuing a raccoon up a huge tree and dreams he goes to heaven. The story is, of course, a metaphor for seeking freedom. Minter underscores the fantastic and spiritual elements with foreshortening and distorted proportions in complex black and white linear drawing.

“The Foot Warmer and the Crow,” fills a long wall: “A wise old crow comes to the aid of Hezekiah, a slave seeking to escape his cruel owner, Master Thompson, by advising him to discover the weaknesses of his owner.” Minter dramatically depicts the three characters with exaggerated perspectives and stunning, but simplified, color contrasts.