Exploring Caribbean roots at Akwaaba gallery

AmNews | 8/15/2019, 12:38 p.m.
Newark’s Akwaaba Gallery will a host a reception on Friday, Aug. 16, from 6-9 p.m., for the opening of “Origins: ...

Newark’s Akwaaba Gallery will a host a reception on Friday, Aug. 16, from 6-9 p.m., for the opening of “Origins: Memories from the Metropolis,” an exhibition featuring 8 artists who all received their professional training in the metropolis of New York, but trace their origins to the nations of the Caribbean archipelago. The paintings, designs and mixed media creations of Ademola Olugebefola, Carla Armour, Carlton Murrell, Diogenes Ballester, Francks Deceus, Kevin Darmarnie, Patricia Brintle, and Victor Davson have all received critical acclaim and multiple exhibitions in the art capitals of Europe and North America. However, they continue to gain much of their inspiration from those formative years of exposure to a unique culture formed in the crucible of colonialism, misogyny and resourcefulness.

Many of us of Caribbean ancestry or birth who live and work in the U.S.A. or the U.K. maintain links with the region, either through extended family, business, or as visitors. For those who no longer have such connections there may be family stories or even heirlooms which somewhat bridge the gap between the experiences in the Caribbean and North America or Europe. These remnants of our history are sometimes romanticized, while others may cause links to be severed, as the memories could be harsh or certainly not always pleasant. 

Our eight chosen artists have all spent their formative years in their countries of origin and most of their adult lives in the metropolises of New York and London. They have all maintained a relationship with the region, some closer than others. However, it is undeniable that their creative work is enhanced by the rich experiences of their upbringing in the Caribbean, their transition to life in the metropolis, and the collective memories of the extended family, spiritual connections which take us all the way back to the African source. They speak with a visual language that encapsulates those connections while exploring the realities of everyday life in the Metropolis.

The gallery is located at 509 S. Orange Avenue, Newark, NJ 07103; and will host Artists’ Talks on Friday, Aug. 30, and Sept. 20. The exhibition will close on Sept. 30. Special thanks to Cockspur Fine Barbados Rum.

Akwaaba Gallery opened its doors on Feb. 15, 2019. Akwaaba’s owners, Laura Z. Bonas Palmer and her husband Ray Palmer purchased and renovated the building which houses the gallery, four lofts and a mailbox store. Determined to be a part of building their community, Laura and Ray, both Caribbean immigrants, opened the first art gallery to the Newark West Ward. Akwaaba Gallery is a hidden Newark gem located in the historic Fairmount neighborhood and features diverse works of contemporary art. Akwaaba’s mission is to engage the community and public with exhibitions featuring emerging local, national and international artists. “Origins: Memories from the Metropolis” is the fourth Akwaaba Exhibit and a poignant tribute to Caribbean artists living in the metropolis.