Did the Maya believe the world would end in December 2012? In recent years, the media have been filled with claims that the ancient Maya predicted a cataclysmic event at the end of their calendar. Some believe that a celestial alignment will bring a series of devastating natural disasters. Others argue that this event will bring enlightenment and a new age of peace. As December 2012 draws closer, new predictions continue to emerge.
So, what did the Maya really believe? With “MAYA 2012: Lords of Time,” the Penn Museum confronts the current fascination with the year 2012, comparing predictions of a world-transforming apocalypse with their supposed origins in the ancient Maya civilization. The exhibition features more than 150 remarkable objects and is presented in partnership with the Instituto Hondureño de Antropologia e Historia of the Republic of Honduras. In addition to impressive, Classic Maya art and artifacts excavated at Copan, and towering replicas of exceptional ancient Maya monuments, the exhibition features interactive experiences that invite visitors to explore ancient and contemporary Maya.
“’MAYA 2012’ offers visitors a rare opportunity to view spectacular examples of Classic Maya art — some of which have never before been seen outside Honduras — and delve into the Maya people’s extraordinary, layered, and shifting concepts about time,” noted exhibition Curator Dr. Loa Traxler, an archaeologist who excavated at the site of Copan from 1989 through 2003.
The ancient Maya civilization has long fascinated scholars and the public alike. For 2,000 years, the Maya flourished in southern Mexico and parts of Central America, their grand cities featuring temple pyramids, palaces, ball courts and intricately carved stone monuments bearing royal portraits and a complex hieroglyphic script. They excelled in art, architecture, astronomy and mathematics — developing a calendar system that amazes and intrigues to this day. The Maya’s complex, interlocking calendar systems, which were based on an advanced understanding of astronomy and the night sky, are simply fascinating. Their most elaborate system, the Long Count, encompasses trillions of years and one of its important cycles comes to a close on December 23, 2012 (some scholars say December 21, 2012). This is the origin of the Maya 2012 “end of the world” phenomenon.
“Regardless of what some may say about the December 2012 Phenomenon, the people of Honduras are certain that this year provides us a unique opportunity to share a part of our history and culture with the world,” said Dr. Norma Cerrato, minister counselor of legal affairs, Embassy of Honduras. “Even though they abandoned this city many centuries ago, the legacy of the Maya lives on in Copa Ruinas today. It lives in the smiles of the people who live and work in this small town surrounded by ancient stories and tropical rainforests. It lives in the knowledge and fascination that hundreds of thousands of tourists experience every year. The Government of Honduras and the University of Pennsylvania have been working together to explore the wonders of Copna for almost three decades. MAYA 2012: Lords of Time is a celebration of this collaboration.”
“MAYA 2012: Lords of Time” is on exhibit at the University of Pennsylvania Museum from May 5th through January 13, 2013. Porfirio Lobo Sosa, president of the Republic of Honduras, joins Penn Museum Director Richard Hodges to cut the ribbon and open the exhibition to the public at 10 a.m., Saturday, May 5. An Opening Weekend Celebration, co-sponsored by the Mexican Cultural Center, features Mayan and Central American music, dance, weaving and craft demonstrations, and family craft activities in the Museum Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Timed tickets to the exhibition (includes admission to the Museum) are on sale by phone (888) 695-0888) or through the Museum’s website (www.penn.museum/2012).
Randall Robinson, an internationally respected social justice advocate and best-selling author whose works include “The Debt — What America Owes to Blacks,” “The Reckoning — What Blacks Owe to Each Other,” and “Quitting America — The Departure of a Black Man From His Native Land.” His most recent book is the novel, “Makeda” (Akashic Books, $15.95). Part coming-of-age story, part spiritual journey and part love story, “Makeda” is a universal tale of family, heritage and the ties that bind.
The title character, Makeda Gee Florida Harris March, is a proud matriarch, the anchor and emotional bellwether who holds together a hard-working African-American family living in 1950s Richmond, Va. Lost in shadow is Makeda’s grandson, Gray, who begins escaping into the magical world of Makeda’s tiny parlor. Makeda, a woman blind since birth but who has always dreamed in color, begins to confide in Gray the things she “sees” and remembers from her dream state, and a story emerges that is layered with historical accuracy beyond the scope of Makeda’s limited education. Gradually, Gray begins to make a connection between his grandmother’s dreams and the epic life of an African queen described in the Bible. In “Makeda,” Robinson explores the matter of collective blood memories.
“There is something to this business,” explained Robinson. “The large majority of people in the world believe in reincarnation. It is only not embraced by the majorities in the United States and in western Europe. Across the world, people believe what Africans believe, that the soul doesn’t die and it has many lives. Makeda had such vivid dream experiences that were distinguishable from ordinary dream of the lives she had had in the distant past in Egypt, Mali and Ethiopia and other places. It gave her a view into a history of African Americans because of slavery.”
Through his writings, congressional testimony, television appearances and civil disobedience campaigns, Robinson was actively involved in efforts to expose the brutality of the Mengistu regime in Ethiopia; the corruption in Nigeria during that country’s era of military dictatorships, and he fought to thwart U.S. attempts to end the Caribbean’s access to the European banana market. In 1984, he established the Free South Africa Movement, which pushed successfully for the imposition of U.S. sanctions against apartheid South Africa; and in 1994, his public advocacy, including a 27-day hunger strike, led to the U.N. multinational operation that restored Haiti’s first democratically elected government to power. Robinson is a professor of law at Penn State Law School and is the creator, co-producer and host of the public television human rights series “World on Trial.”
“Because of strategies of those who managed slavery, African Americans have no understanding or view of what happened to them — or to us, as a people before slavery — what we did, who we were, what we accomplished or none of that,” said Robinson. “They even invented a name for us when I was a child: They called us ‘Negroes,’ and I had no clue of the provenance of that word. There were Italian Americans who were from Italy, and Irish Americans who were from Ireland, but nobody knew where Negro-land was. It was a word invented to cut us off from a past. That was the case because you are much easier to control if you’re severed from your traditions, social and cultural institutions so that you come to believe that you have no history because you have no clue that you ever had one.”
The Literary Café will presents Randall Robinson on Monday, Nov. 14 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the African American Museum in Philadelphia, 701 Arch Street. For more information, call (215) 878-BOOK.
Originated in 1962, The Philadelphia Antiques Show has grown into one of the most prominent shows in the United States — famed for its wide array of decorative pieces and furnishings. Mayor Michael A. Nutter joined show officials yesterday to announce that the 2012 Show will move to a new home in Center City, Philadelphia — the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
“This is going to be an exciting event in this city,” said Nutter. “Where else to celebrate Americana than in the birthplace of America? Not only in Philadelphia, but downtown in the newly expanded, updated and spectacular Convention Center. Philadelphia is known for our eds, meds and beds.” The Philadelphia Antiques Show combines all of them. Last year, about 10,000 people visited the show and stayed at our great hotels. The proceeds from the Antiques Show benefit University of Pennsylvania Medicine. This year, the Philadelphia Antiques Show will be even bigger as it moves to its new home, the Pennsylvania Convention Center.”
One of the longest running shows in the country, the show debuted on April 24, 1962 as the University Hospital Antiques Show at the 33rd Street Armory in West Philadelphia. Since its founding, the show has moved to several locations, and was hosted most recently at The Navy Yard, Philadelphia Cruise Terminal at Pier One. The change in venue will feature a larger floor plan, and a new logo to bring antiques into the 21st century.
“Moving the show to the Pennsylvania Convention Center allows patrons the chance to purchase the finest, most exquisite treasures from over 50 antiques dealers featured in our largest floor plan ever,” says show chairwoman Gretchen Riley. “With the new layout of the show, we also decided to elevate the look of our brand with a fresh logo that we hope inspires a new generation of collectors to attend the show and begin collections of their own.”
In addition to the new location and show dates, proceeds from the 51st Philadelphia Antiques Show will continue to raise funds for its beneficiary, the University of Pennsylvania Health System, and will help establish the Penn Lung Transplant Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion Center.
The National Museum of African Art (NMAfA) is part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., located on the National Mall. The museum specializes in African art and culture and was established as a private museum in 1964. It officially became a part of the Smithsonian Institution in August 1979. Dr. Johnetta B. Cole was appointed the director of NMAfA in March 2009. And, it was in that capacity that Cole arrived at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia last week to appeal to the region’s arts and culture community for support of the museum.
“What has happened is that you have two institutions coming together,” explained African-American scholar and historian Molefi Kete Asante. “One institution is a personal institution of Dr. Johnetta B. Cole, and the other one is the National Museum of African Art. Those are two institutions that are working together to create in this country wonderful, powerful experience of an appreciation for our past and our history.”
Before assuming her current position, Cole had a long and distinguished career as an educator and humanitarian. Her work as a college professor and president, her published works, her speeches and her community service consistently address issues of racial, gender-based and all other forms of inequality. Cole is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women and Spelman College. She is the only individual to have served as the president of these two historically Black colleges for women in the United States. She is also Professor Emerita of Emory University from which she retired as Presidential Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Women’s Studies and African American Studies.
“It’s not easy to make what I see is a compelling case for an art museum,” said Cole. “Especially in tough times, as people tell you ‘Oh, I understand, but that’s just stuff you put on the wall. We got to take care of education; we got to take care of health care; we got to end violence.’ Nothing could be further from the truth because we cannot truly live without the arts. And when things get tough, as they are now, that’s when the arts tickle our souls and remind us of where we have come from, and give us some sense of what the future can be. So, while I know we don’t in general honor this — because the first time things get tough, we cut out music and art in out public schools — we got to stop that because the richness that the arts bring into our lives cannot be denied. And secondly, art helps us to know who we are — and in ways that are intriguing and provocative. Rather than a straight up-and-down lecture, the arts invite us, in the most creative way, to connect with who we are.”
After beginning her college studies at Fisk University and completing her undergraduate studies at Oberlin College, Cole earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Northwestern University. Cole made history in 1987 when she became the first African-American woman to serve as president of Spelman College. At her inauguration, Drs. Bill and Camille Cosby donated $20 million dollars to the college; and during her presidency, Spelman was named the number one liberal arts college in the South. During her presidency at Bennett College for Women, an art gallery was opened and programs were initiated in women’s studies and global studies.
“There are certain things in the world that are so basic, and so fundamental,” said Cole. “We are not even alive [without them], and so for us as a people, not to support our educational institutions is blasphemy. I don’t want to hear about people standing up and singing the good old song from their alma mater — a wonderful HBCU — and they have not sent a dime in to support that school. And, I am certainly a little short of patience when folk want to stand up and declare how attached they are to their culture and their people, and will not support their cultural and art institutions. So at the risk of being trite, I will say that we have got to put our money where our mouth is.”
Cole, 74, has conducted research in Africa, the Caribbean and the United States, and she has authored and edited several books and scores of scholarly articles. She is a fellow of the American Anthropological Association and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is also a member of the American Association of Museum Directors. Cole has been awarded 55 honorary degrees and she is the recipient of numerous awards, including the TransAfrica Forum Global Public Service Award, the Radcliffe Medal, the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal, the 2001 Alexis de Tocqueville Award for Community Service from United Way of America, The Joseph Prize for Human Rights presented by the Anti-Defamation League, The Uncommon Height Award from the National Council of Negro Women, The John W. Gardner leadership Award from The Independent Sector, the Lenore and George W. Romney Citizen Volunteer Award from the Points of Light Foundation, Ebony magazine’s most influential 100 2010, George Washington Carver award 2011 and Benjamin Franklin Creativity Laureate Award. From 2004 to 2006, Cole was the chair of the board of United Way of America, the first African American to serve in that position. She has served on the corporate boards of Home Depot, Merck and Nation’s Bank South. She was the first woman to serve on the board of Coca-Cola Enterprises.
The roots of the NMAfA date back to a chance purchase of a $15 carving of the Yoruba people by Warren M. Robbins in Hamburg, Germany in the early 1960s. Robbins purchased another 32 pieces of African art a year later, and brought his collection with him when he returned to the United States, putting them on display at his home in Washington, D.C. After a newspaper article was published about his collection, visitors started appearing at the door and were welcomed in to view the works. Artwork in the museum comes from all parts of Africa, but most of it is from the region south of the Sahara. Represented countries include Mali, Cameroon, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Ghana and Morocco, among others. Most of the items in the collection are sculptures, masks, furniture and musical instruments made from wood. In 1963, Robbins purchased half of a home at 316–18 A Street Northeast that had been the residence of abolitionist Frederick Douglass from 1871 to 1877. When it opened in May 1964, it was the first museum in the United States dedicated to African art exclusively. In succeeding years, Robbins raised money to acquire the remaining half of the Douglass house, naming it the Museum of African Art. As the collection grew, he purchased adjoining residences, with his museum ultimately including nine townhouses, 16 garages and two carriage houses.
In 1979, Congress agreed to have the Smithsonian Institution assume management of the collection. Robbins served as the museum’s first director, remaining in the position until 1983 when he was named founding director emeritus and a Smithsonian senior scholar, and was replaced as director by Sylvia H. Williams. The museum relocated from its Capitol Hill townhouse to the National Mall on September 1987, and was renamed the National Museum of African Art.
“You feel a sense of standing in a part of history,” noted Philadelphia Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. “You feel the past and present. You feel the historic time, and there were so many historical figures, people who affected our lives as a people for years and years and years, so we are just honored. It’s exciting. It helps us regenerate our hope and spirit to do what we can to keep it all going for our people.”
The National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, features African art from antiquity to the present and is located on the National Mall, 950 Independence Avenue, Southwest, Washington, D.C. Hours: Sun & Sat, 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. For more information, call (202) 633-4600.
Closed for renovation for much of 2011, Bridgette Mayer Gallery on Washington Square in Center City reopens this week with the group exhibit of contemporary painting, “Karmic Abstraction.” The inaugural show’s title in the expanded and transformed space reflects Mayer’s “interest in the idea of the karmic cycle of an artist’s history of painting and ideas.” The selected works, by 16 nationally and internationally-recognized artists reveals, “How, at a given moment in time, standing in front of a work of art, the viewer is faced with the multiple layers and concepts that create a painting as well as a lifetime of ideas, actions and history that make up the career and art history of a contemporary artist.”
Owner and director Bridgette Mayer founded the gallery in May of 2001 with 10 years experience in gallery and arts management in New York, San Francisco, Taiwan and Philadelphia. The gallery’s mission is to support emerging artists and to give their work and careers a critical voice within the art community. The gallery specializes in working with first-time art buyers as well as seasoned collectors interested in enhancing their art collection through the acquisition of market-proven artists. Gallery artists have won prestigious grants and residencies including: Pew Fellowship in the Arts, Leeway Foundation Window of Opportunity Awards, 2007 Miami University Young Painters Competition, the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts Grant, Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture, Fulbright Fellowship, Vermont Studio Center Summer Scholarships, Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarships and the Wayne Art Center Newman Award.
The artists in the “Karmic Abstraction” exhibit reflect notions of how the history of a painting might be apparent on its surface in a number of ways. Some works speak to personal or cultural memory, while others address the traditions of painting or the medium’s capacity to generate a record of its own creation. Odili Donald Odita, a Philadelphia painter, uses color to “reflect the collection of visions from […] travels globally and locally.” Philadelphian Tim McFarlane writes that “relationships between time, memory, and movement form the primary foundation” for his paintings, which have an atmospheric quality as if seen through a filter of recollection. Atlanta-based artist Radcliffe Bailey situates his work in dialog with the past by incorporating photographs into his compositions. For each of these artists, paintings are a repository for personal and cultural experience and means of reflecting on questions of identity.
The Bridgette Mayer Gallery is located in the heart of Washington Square at 709 Walnut Street, 1st Floor. Gallery hours are Tuesday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. and by appointment. For more information, visit www.bridgettemayergallery.com.
French-born Frédéric Yonnet, best known for his on-stage collaborations with music icons Stevie Wonder and Prince, has been described by Rolling Stone magazine as Prince’s “killer harmonica player.” Yonnet’s musical skills and stage presence crush every preconceived notion you’ve ever had about the harmonica. For decades, it has primarily served as the instrument of choice for street musicians and loners who express themselves through country or blues. However, in Yonnet’s hands, those stereotypical walls come tumbling down with each note he plays. He presents the harmonica in a refreshing and modern context — as a lead instrument in a supremely tight 8-piece band throwing down urban jazz, funk and R&B. Yonnet, who is featured on the title tracks of Philly-based Kindred The Family Soul’s current top-charting release, “Love Has No Recession,” has also performed with Erykah Badu, John Legend and India.Arie.
In 1998, while performing at the Cannes Film Festival, Yonnet met several Americans who encouraged him to showcase his talent in the United States. In 2001, Yonnet moved to Washington, D.C. where he performed in area festivals and clubs, quickly developing a reputation as a “genre-bending” harmonica player. After hearing Yonnet’s music, comedian Dave Chappelle invited him to make guest appearances during Chappelle’s 10-city Block Party Concert tour in 2006. Later that year, Yonnet, along with Erykah Badu and Goapele, were invited to Ohio to perform at the AACW Blues Festival hosted by Chappelle.
During Chappelle’s introduction of Yonnet at Bluesfest, he tells the story of how he introduced Yonnet to Stevie Wonder when they were backstage at the 2006 Grammy Awards. “[Fred] pulled his harmonica out of his pocket in front of Stevie Wonder and I said ‘Damn,’ and he started playing that harmonica — I was scared for him… and Stevie started doing like this, [swaying back and forth] — now they hang out every Tuesday and Thursday.”
While the pair may not be hanging out twice a week, Yonnet and Wonder have performed together numerous times, always teasing the crowd with a competitive rendition of Wonder’s “Boogie On Reggae Woman.” “Every time (Wonder) comes to town, or if we are in the same city, we try to connect as much as possible,” said Yonnet. “When we do get together, the harmonica is definitely a language that we have in common.”
It was during a Stevie Wonder concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden when Prince first saw Yonnet perform. Several months later, Yonnet was invited to record and ultimately tour with Prince. “Dave Chappelle actually brought us to Prince’s house that night, and Prince recognized me after a couple of plays,” recalled Yonnet. ”He then started calling me to work with him.”
Yonnet’s star-crossed path began with his birth in Normandy, France. His paternal grandfather, Jacques Yonnet, was the noted French artist, writer and author of "Paris Noir” — a memoir that explores the dark heart of the “City of Lights.” As a child, Yonnet and his father performed as a comedy duo in small theaters across France. By the age of 14, he started playing drums and after demonstrating considerable promise as a drummer, he was selected to perform at the Marciac Jazz Festival. However, throughout his childhood, Yonnet suffered with asthma. By 19, he decided to revisit an instrument he had as a child, the harmonica. After dedicating time to mastering the instrument, he noticed a significant decrease in his asthma attacks. Today, he carries a harmonica instead of an inhaler and his past experiences as a drummer influences his rhythmic and percussive style of harmonica playing.
“My attraction to the instrument comes from so many different perspectives,” explains Yonnet. “First, I do have asthma. I realized later on, after practicing the harmonica for a little while, that it helps me in managing my respiratory deficiencies. Also, I have a love of music. I wanted to be a drummer, but as I was playing the drums I realized I could not really take the lead, and I was limited in certain ways harmonically. So I go from playing the drums, to something that fits in your pocket. And that’s the other side of the harmonica that really, really made me fall in love with it. It is very friendly, it fits in your pocket, it’s inexpensive, it’s you lose one it’s easy to get it replaced. All your creativity can really go into something that is almost like a toy. But the real lesson I got from it is that it is limited in a way that forces you to extend your perspective to the instrument, and bring things to the instrument that is in your own mind.”
Frédéric Yonnet will open the 42nd season at the Painted Bride Art Center with two shows on Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., and feature works from his new project “Reed My Lips: The Rough Cut.” Tickets are $25 in advance; $30 day of show. Patrons with proper ID are welcome to BYOB for this special event. For concert-goers and nightlife seekers alike, a pre-concert reception takes place at 6 p.m., before the 7 p.m. show; an after-party, sponsored by GPTMC’s Philly 360, will take place immediately following the 9 p.m. show. Patrons will enjoy cabaret-style seating and free range over the Bride’s café and spacious bi-level gallery while DJ Joey Blanco of Soul Travelin’ fame provides an eclectic mix of classic soul, jazz, funk and hip-hop. To purchase tickets or for more information, call (215) 925.9914, or visit paintedbride.org. The Bride is located at 230 Vine Street on the northern edge of Old City.
Alcohol. Lithium. Buddhist chanting. To quiet the voices in her mind, Sylvia Harris tried all of the above. At times, her manic behavior led her to dress up as a cowgirl and show off her imaginary rope skills in the middle of a quaint Northern California village, or spend the night in a torpor of fear awaiting the alien invasion she knew was on the horizon. At its worst, it led her to look for love in all the wrong places and create a family she had difficulty caring for.
Although she sometimes found temporary relief and brief moments of calm, darkness always followed. At the nadir of her 20-year battle with bipolar depression, Harris found salvation in the most unlikely of places: Cardinal Farm, an equine ranch outside of Orlando, Fla. “Long Shot: My Bipolar Life and the Horses Who Saved Me” (Ecco, $15.99) is the inspirational story of Harris' road to recovery through friendship and the calming effect of horses.
Harris had always been drawn to animals, but she had no idea of the healing power she would discover while working with horses. And though she still experienced raging highs and destabilizing lows, eventually — through grooming, caring for, and, against all odds, racing horses — she was able to find stability and, ultimately, joy.
“I wanted to both try and deal with some of my issues and also inspire others to seek help if they, or someone they know, is dealing with this disorder,” explained Harris. “But I also wanted to offer hope to those people and let them know that although there is no cure for bipolar disorder you can still accomplish so much. You can still reach your dream.”
With an unflinching eye toward her weaknesses and the pain that her life decisions have inflicted on others, Harris examines the ravaging power of her bipolar behavior and the magical power of horses, showing readers how the mythic interspecies connection between humans and these magnificent animals continues to astonish and inspire.
“We all have difficulties to deal with in life to varying degrees,” said Harris. “And even if just being 'normal' is a challenge you can find a degree of satisfaction and a way to still live life. It takes help and understanding and in my case medical assistance, but no matter how dark it may seem there is always that flame of life within you and if you focus on that you'll make it. You'll find your way through the darkness.”
Now over 184 years old,The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) continues in its mission to “motivate people to improve the quality of life and create a sense of community through horticulture.” The first Flower Show was in 1829 at the Masonic Hall on Chestnut Street, where the well-known Christmas favorite, the poinsettia, was introduced. Over the decades, the event has grown dramatically to become the nation’s grandest Flower Show, attracting 250,000 visitors annually over an eight-day period. In 2012, the PHS will takes visitors on a whole new trip with Philadelphia International Flower Show themed: “Hawaii: Islands of Aloha.”
This year’s show will introduce a tropical experience that blends next stage digital technology with the natural beauty and rich culture of the islands and more. The islands will be celebrated in showcase gardens that highlight flowers, landscape, performances and art.
“This is a Show that will appeal to anyone who enjoys excitement, fantastic design and a full-tilt experience,” said PHS President Drew Belcher. “Whether you’re a Show veteran or a first-timer, you’ve never seen a Flower Show like this.”
New motion graphics will transform waterfalls into lava flows and sculptural forms into breaking waves. As visitors enter the hall, they will be transported to a new world, one with a multidimensional sensory experience amid a canopy of tropical flowers that rival the Pacific paradise. “We look forward to sharing the natural beauty of of our islands, as well as our Hawaiian culture and the aloha spirit of our people, on the East Coast,” said Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority. “The week of events will expose attendees to the richness and diversity of Hawaii, and we hope they are encouraged to visit us after experiencing and learning about our special place.”
Other major exhibits will include floral volcanoes, cut-bamboo designs, surf shacks, Hawaiian vistas and a tribute to the memorial garden at Pearl Garden. Towering palms, green walls and a tropical plant canopy will immerse guests in the Hawaiian rainforests. A 25-foot-high waterfall will splash down into Pele’s Garden, an island of exotic flowers and plants where performers will conjure volcanic flames and the Fire Goddess.
The 2012 Philadelphia International Flower Show “Hawaii: Islands of Aloha” runs from Sunday, March 4 to Sunday, March 11, 2012, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 12th & Arch streets. For information and tickets, visit theflowershow.com. For behind-the-scene stories and previews of the Show, visit the Flower Show Blog, Facebook and Twitter pages.
What is the role of “place” in art? That question is pondered in “here.,” an exhibition that considers how “place” is not simply the geographic locality where an artist lives and works but also the juice of lived experience — the subject matter, material, concepts and freedoms that this space provides. Acknowledging that a work of art is saturated with the artist’s concrete experience of place, “here.” features two-dozen artists who live and work in areas of the country that are peripheral to the dominant art markets, selected by PAFA’s Curator of Contemporary Art Julien Robson, and five guest curators.
The works explores how a sense of place exists in the work of artists from six particular regions — Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Phoenix, Raleigh-Durham, Detroit and Kansas City. This exhibition challenges the idea of “regionalism” as an unfashionable term that references only the parochial or the provincial, highlighting instead the fact that many communities have begun to place greater importance on how history and place define them in a globalized world. By presenting a diverse range of compelling artistic practices seen through the eyes of curators who live and work in the regions, here. provides a platform for artists from six regions and opens a broader discussion about what Regionalism can mean to American art today.
In Scott Hocking’s works a sense of place can be found in glimpses of Detroit that appear in his photographs, while in Arizona collective Postcommodity’s installations it is found in references to Native American ritual and history. Kansas artist Michael Kruger refers to hippy culture in Lawrence, while North Carolina artist Glenda Wharton’s animated film paints childhood dreams that allude to the segregated South. Place appears in many guises, whether expressed directly in the freedoms a space affords, the subject matter it provides, or the material and conceptual needs that it satisfies.
The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, located at 118–128 N. Broad Street, will host “here.” at the Fisher Brooks Gallery, Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building through Dec. 31. For more information, visit pafa.org or call (215) 972-0522.
The Creole Choir of Cuba is an entirely fresh export, easily the most original vocal sound to come out of their island country in many years. Their mesmerizing sound, jubilant dancing and deep spirit have made them a huge hit in England, where they have toured extensively since first appearing at the Edinburgh Festival in 2009. Presently performing on their first major U.S. Tour, their highly-anticipated performance debut follows their concert cancellation in January 2011 due to last minute visa clearance complications. “it’s very redemptive for the community, for me, for the Painted Bride,” said longtime Painted Bride jazz and world music curator, Lenny Seidman. “It was hell last year dealing with the visas not coming through at the last minute was very agonizing.”
The choir sings in Creole — a distinct language which fuses African, French and indigenous languages. Seidman, a dedicated and accomplished musician himself, co-founder and member of Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra, recalled he was blown away upon first hearing the unusual ensemble. “I’m fascinated with a lot of the stuff that’s coming out of Cuba because it’s been repressed for so long. When you look into the history of one culture migrating to another culture and seeing how the music changes according to the new culture that they are in. So they’re bring Haitian styles and songs to their lives in Cuba.”
Founded in 1994, the choir’s singers come from Camagüey, Cuba’s third city. Known as “Desandann” in Cuba, the group members are descendants of several waves of Haitian migrants who escaped slavery at the end of the 18th Century or more recently came as laborers to work Cuba’s sugar and coffee plantations. Creole, Cuba’s second language is the language of a people twice exiled: first to Haiti from Africa through the iniquitous slave trade; then from Haiti to Cuba tricked into second slavery by the French after the Haitian Revolution of 1790.
Audiences should prepare to experience the passionate melodies, wild harmonies and richly textured arrangements of 10 inspiring vocalists. Five men and five women make up the choir including Rogelio Torriente, Fidel Miranda, Teresita Miranda, Marcelo Luis, Dalio Vital, Emilia Diaz Chavez, Yordanka Fajardo, Irian Montejo, Marina Fernandes, Yara Diaz. The ensemble’s repertoire consists of a wide range of choral arrangements with percussion accompaniment including Choucoune, a Haitian merengue, Gran Toumobile, a Creole Mazurka, and Doudou Moin, a Martinique merengue.
In 2009, CCC floored Edinburgh Festival goers with their riveting performance. It was there the producer of BBC 2’s “Later … with Jools Holland” saw the vibrant ten-piece choir and invited the group to perform. They accepted and performed an uplifting and emotional “Chen Nan Ren,” a freedom song denouncing neo-colonialism and colonialism. The performance conveyed the celebratory and glorious feeling of resistance which harks back to the freedom songs and spirituals which helped to fuel the struggle for racial equality in the U.S.
Riding a wave of critical acclaim garnered by their debut CD release in the UK entitled “Tande-la (Real World Records)” the Creole Choir of Cuba debuts at the Painted Bride Art Center, 230 Vine Street, at 6 p.m. on Sunday, October 16. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 day of show. To purchase tickets or for more information, call (215) 925-9914, or visit paintedbride.org.