Curated by Tierney L. Malone, The Sankofa Project is a multi-year examination of the historical events leading up to our current moment of social unrest and racial reckoning. Beginning with the people and stories that make up our own communities of Houston, this project aims to bring light to the events that have been censored or ignored in historical narratives in order to reinforce the racial oppression of Black Americans.

The Sankofa Project will commission three artists annually to create and present new work that is reflective of their own experience in contemporary America and related to the work of scholars and historians who are leading conversations on race and inequality. The artists’ work will be presented in Lawndale’s east-facing windows on Main Street and accompanied by a podcast and public program to inspire dialogue within our community.

“Sankofa” is the Ghanaian word most commonly translated as “one must acknowledge the past in order to move forward.” Thus, in The Sankofa Project, Malone brings together artists and our community to reflect upon the past, reminding us of the power of art to serve not only as the language of humanity but also its catalyst for change.

The Sankofa Project in the Main Street Windows

Summer 2022 - Jason Moran's Barline Hopkins Deathbed

Jason Moran
Barline Hopkins Deathbed
The Sankofa Project
June 18, 2022 – August 13, 2022
Main Street Windows

Artist Statement by Jason Moran

“Get up in the morning, turn around and just lay back down.” – Lightnin’ Hopkins

Barline Hopkins Deathbed is a tribute to legendary blues guitarist Lightnin’ Hopkins. His voice cut the air, and his guitar solos were a balm that healed souls. He rattled eardrums with his piercing voice, roused audiences to their feet to shake it off, made his guitar sound like a howling street dog, or slow-dragged a blues so slow it became a lullaby. Hopkins was a sound griot, documenting the world around him through his penetrating music.

When I think about Lightnin’, and especially the Blues, I think about how much he informs American sound. He lets the listener inside the sounds around him and then coats it in electricity. His Blues is a contrast to what is often termed “folk” music. The singer Georgia Ann Muldrow defines the Blues, and Black music broadly, as “high tech”. She refers to the way the music has always been at the forefront of our communal knowledge, celebration and therapy. The music is a communal technology, thus high tech, distributed widely from soul to soul. Lightnin’ distributes a quintessentially Houston “High Tech” music to the world, and when we listen beyond our ears, and see beyond our eyes, we can find it’s truth shining.

Featured image: Jason Moran’s Barline Hopkins Deathbed, 2021, the summer 2022 iteration of The Sankofa Project.

Learn more here.

Spring 2022 - Ann Johnson's See Me

Ann Johnson
See Me
The Sankofa Project
February 26, 2022 – May 14, 2022
Main Street Windows & Grace R. Cavnar Gallery

Artist Statement by Ann Johnson

BEING SEEN

This is about being seen.  Seeing the women in the shadows.  In my eyes the ironing board resembles a badge of honor.  A medal for the women in the shadows.  A medal of honor that so many Black women, and women of color have earned, as they had to take care of the families of others before they could take care of their own.  As a physical object the ironing board is a sacred symbol that represents the back breaking work women have endured simply for survival.  This installation examines family, community, and most importantly Black womanhood.

UNEARTHED.  REBIRTHED.  REIMAGINED.   SHOTGUNS: THE REMIX

Inspired by the presence of women in the community, I have reimagined John Biggers “Shotguns (1987)” with the women of the artist collective ROUX: Lovie Olivia, Delita Martin, Rabéa Ballin, and myself, Ann Johnson (If you don’t know who we are, find out).   The women of ROUX are peering at a community that is increasingly becoming gentrified, but is still the heartbeat of the black community in Houston.  The 3rd Ward.  Each woman in this piece represents the layers and levels of womanhood.  Each portrait was created using the transfer printmaking process on vintage and aged metal ironing boards adorned with gold leaf throughout. The ironing boards in the composition act as an entrance to a shotgun house. “Dr. Biggers preached and preached and preached the meaning of this house, the fact that it was on one hand a very humble abode but at the same time it was a temple” says Alvia Wardlaw. [1]

YOU CAN’T SEE HOW YOU SEE ME.

Featured image: Ann Johnson’s See Me, 2022, the spring/summer 2022 iteration of The Sankofa Project.

Learn more here.

Fall 2021 - David McGee's Black Star

David McGee
Black Star
The Sankofa Project
September 17, 2021 – February 5, 2022
Main Street Windows and Grace R. Cavnar Gallery

Artist Statement by David McGee

The Middle Passage
The Middle Passage was the stage of the Atlantic Slave Trade in which millions of enslaved Africans were forcibly transported to the Americas as part of triangular slave trade.

Black Star
is not a narrative depiction of the middle passage but a meditation. The painting consists of black and white panels horizontally arranged to be read left to right, each panel revealing a ghost image some in shadows some in light. The panels in some cases address the passage directly and in other cases indirectly.

In Black and White
A black and white issue, one that involves issues that seem simple and therefore easy to make decisions about. But this isn’t a simple black and white affair. The meditation consists of images ranging from religious symbols to Klan heads invoking ship sails amongst others. The meditation is of struggle and hope. A story of the kidnapping and it’s after effects.

— David McGee

Featured image: David McGee’s Black Star, 2019, the winter/spring 2022 iteration of The Sankofa Project.

Learn more here.

Summer 2021 - Robert Hodge's Will They Reminisce Over You?

Robert Hodge
Will They Reminisce Over You?
The Sankofa Project
June 19, 2021 – August 14, 2021
Main Street Windows

Featured image: Robert Hodge’s Will They Reminisce Over You?, (2021), the summer 2021 iteration of The Sankofa Project.

Learn more here.

Spring 2021 - Rabéa Ballin's In Passing

Rabéa Ballin
In Passing
The Sankofa Project
February 5, 2021 – May 1, 2021
Main Street Windows & Grace R. Cavnar Gallery

Artist Statement by Rabéa Ballin

“Passers are treated historically as individual bad persons and not as part of a larger society that treats people unequally based on who they are and who they appear to be.”

– Marcia Alesan Dawkins

This project is a portal into the space of otherness. Passing is a chameleon act that has existed since intercultural contact began. In Passing explores just one facet of interracial history, the escaping of racial discrimination and social marginalization by passing as another race. Claiming to belong to a group that one was not legally assigned to resulted in taking secrets to the grave. Instead of focusing on what was gained, what happened to the identities that were lost? What of the enormous consequence of losing family and tradition for the sake of survival? What of the subsequent journeys of self-discovery and redemption? Concealing lineage results in the pull between majority culture and the antagonistic cocultures into which one is born. What is the emotional toll of slipping unnoticed into dominant society?

Featured image: Rabéa Ballin’s In Passing, 2020, the winter/spring 2021 iteration of The Sankofa Project.

Learn more here.

Fall 2020 - Tierney Malone's The Little Girl in the Lion's Den

Tierney Malone
The Little Girl in the Lion’s Den
The Sankofa Project Curated by Tierney Malone
October 10, 2020 – January 16, 2021
Main Street Windows & Grace R. Cavnar Gallery

Artist Statement by Tierney Malone

The Little Girl in the Lion’s Den:

“Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women”.
– Harriet Jacob (Formerly enslaved, self-liberated author of Incident in the Life of a Slave Girl, circa 1861)

This work is inspired by the countless women who suffered and survived chattel slavery and those who were dedicated warriors in the struggle against the American caste system. One can only imagine the constant trauma of rape, the kidnapping of children, and the daily-present shadow of death on family and loved ones. It is these women who in the face of all of this created family and maintained it to the best of their abilities through two centuries of slavery. During the 100 years that followed emancipation came the backlash of American apartheid known as Jim Crow, which birthed the civil rights era. These women were not just soldiers in the ranks but the critical organizers and strategists behind the most visible male leaders. They were the tip of the sword in the struggle for school integration across the country according to scholar Rachel Devlin in her book A Girl Stands at the Door: The Generation of Young Women Who Desegregated America’s Schools.

Featured image:

Installation image of The Little Girl in the Lion’s Den by Tierney Malone. Photo by Nash Baker, courtesy of Lawndale.

Learn more here.

The Sankofa Project Dialogues

The Sankofa Project Dialogues are presented in conjunction with commissioned artwork created for The Sankofa Project and displayed in Lawndale’s Main Street Windows. Each iteration of this program addresses an aspect of the United States’ historically censored or ignored narratives which reinforce the racial oppression of Black Americans. Hosted by The Sankofa Project’s curator, Tierney L. Malone, the dialogues explore the subject of each artwork with the artist and a prominent scholar.

December 15, 2021 - Conversation with David McGee and Dr. Sowande’ Mustakeem

Conversation with David McGee and Dr. Sowande’ Mustakeem (Digital: Registration Required)
December 15, 2021
6:00 PM – 7:00 PM
FREE EVENT
Zoom

Join us on Wednesday, December 15 from 6 – 7 PM for a conversation about the Middle Passage and its lasting legacy with The Sankofa Project’s fall 2021 featured artist, David McGee, and Dr. Sowande’ Mustakeem, Associate Professor of History and of African and African-American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis.

 

Featured images:

David McGee, Black Star, Ship (2019). Oil on burlap, 20 x 16″.
David McGee, Black Star, Trickster (2019). Oil on burlap, 20 x 16″.

Images are courtesy of the artist and Texas Gallery.

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August 19, 2021 - Conversation with Robert Hodge and Dr. Jeff Littlejohn

Conversation with Robert Hodge and Dr. Jeff Littlejohn (Digital: Registration Required)
August 19, 2021
6:00 PM – 7:00 PM
FREE EVENT
Zoom

Join us on Thursday, August 19 from 6 – 7 PM for a conversation on racial violence and lynching in Texas with The Sankofa Project’s summer 2021 featured artist, Robert Hodge, and Dr. Jeff Littlejohn, Professor of History at Sam Houston State University.

Featured image: Robert Hodge’s Will They Reminisce Over You?, (2021), the summer 2021 iteration of The Sankofa Project.

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June 23, 2021 - Conversation with Rabéa Ballin and Dr. Marcia Alesan Dawkins

Conversation with Rabéa Ballin and Dr. Marcia Alesan Dawkins (Digital: Registration Required)
June 23, 2021
6:00 PM – 7:00 PM
FREE EVENT
Zoom

Join us on Wednesday, June 23 from 6 – 7 PM for an engaging conversation with The Sankofa Project’s winter/spring 2021 featured artist, Rabéa Ballin, and Dr. Marcia Alesan Dawkins, highly acclaimed scholar and author of several groundbreaking books, including Clearly Invisible: Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity and Mixed Race 3.0: Risk & Reward in the Digital Age, co-edited by Ulli K. Ryder.

Featured image: Rabéa Ballin’s In Passing, 2020, the winter/spring 2021 iteration of The Sankofa Project.

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April 22, 2021 - Conversation with Tierney Malone and Dr. Daina Ramey Berry

Conversation with Tierney Malone and Dr. Daina Ramey Berry (Digital: Registration Required)
April 22, 2021
6:00 PM – 7:00 PM
FREE EVENT
Zoom

This Thursday, April 22 from 6 – 7 PM, join Lawndale for an engaging conversation with The Sankofa Project’s curator and initiating artist, Tierney L. Malone, and Dr. Daina Ramey Berry, highly acclaimed scholar and author of two groundbreaking books, The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation and A Black Women’s History of the United States, co-authored by Dr. Kali Nicole Gross.

Featured image: Tierney Malone’s The Little Girl in the Lion’s Den, 2020. The first iteration of The Sankofa Project.

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