This month, the Northwest African American Mudeum (NAAM) kicks off a the timely exhibit, “An Elegant Utility” by local artist Inye Wokoma, starting Sat. Jan. 28, at 7 p.m., with a night of music, open dialogue, interactive activities and complimentary refreshments. Shelf Life Community Story Booth will also be on-hand to help document community stories, and spoken word artist & Emcee Naa Akua and Rapper Yirim Seck will perform live.
Local artist, Inye Wokoma’s exhibit explores the creation of place, identity, and the Northwest African-American community that has historically characterized Seattle’s Central District neighborhood by interrogating the ways in which structural violence produced the precarious conditions his family was forced to navigate after settling in the Central District during the Great Migration.
Wokoma examines archived family photographs, artifacts, and oral histories to illuminate how building community and claiming space allowed them to materialize their aspirations. Layered narratives also examine how shifting systemic oppression has facilitated the erasure of Black presence which once defined the Central District.
This exhibit urges us to recognize the relationship between redlining, racial restrictive covenants, inaccessible resources and the current displacement of Black people. How do we preserve and continue to build identity, community, and place as rapid processes of gentrification change the Central District?
An Elegant Utility explores the creation of place, identity and the Northwest African American community that has historically characterized Seattle’s Central District neighborhood. Featuring a collection of artifacts, including photographs, utilitarian house hold belongings, and legal ledgers, An Elegant Utility examines how the personal history of artist Inye Wokoma’s familial lineage, the Green family, serves as an entry point through which the larger story of African-Americans in Seattle, is reflected.
In this exhibit, Wokoma creates a kind of sanctum encompassing the lifelong possessions of his grandfather, which tell the rich, layered narrative of hope, struggle, loss and the strong-willed drive of a family to establish place and create personal and communal identity.
The exhibit’s artifacts include turn of the 20th century work tools, recreational items such as an old metal and canvas catcher’s mask, church fans and collected issues of Ebony, Jet and Time magazines from the 1960’s & 1970’s. Wokoma’s, An ElegantUtility urges viewers to recognize the relationship between racist housing policies, civic disinvestment in public services and infrastructure, and the seemingly irresistible momentum of the current displacement of Black people.
Inye Wokoma is an award winning Seattle based filmmaker and visual artist. For more than two decades, he has created and exhibited visual art that engages the diverse communities in which he lives and works. He is a recipient of the 2012 Telly Award for environmental filmmaking, as well as awards and recognition from the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, and the Colorado Environmental Film Festival. Wokoma completed a degree in journalism and filmmaking from Clark Atlanta University before establishing the media production & strategy consulting firm, Ijo Arts Media Group.
Photo & content provided by the Northwest American American Museum.