The African Development Center (ADC) located in the Cedar Riverside Neighborhood, opened its brand new art gallery on December 17, exhibiting the show “Afro Universal,” a vibrant collection of African-influenced paintings, sculpture, and textiles from local and international artists.
ADC was started on April 1, 2004, according to Executive Director Hussein Samatar. The center offers workshops and consultations on financial literacy, business development, and home ownership, and serves its community in eight different languages throughout Minnesota, according to its website.
ADC moved into its current office space earlier this year, and Samatar said that as soon as he saw the space he knew that an art gallery had to be part of it. Art and culture, he said, offer a way for ADC to connect with the local community, and embrace its spirit. Hussein hopes that the center will offer a new exhibition three times per year, and plans to collaborate with universities and other institutions for future shows. Ideally, Hussein said, young students “will fall in love with African art and maybe decide to travel there.”
The current exhibition, curated by Oreoluwa, includes pieces from Nigeria, Ghana, Somalia, Zaire, and Brazil. The walls of the center are filled with an eclectic mix of large brightly painted canvasses, sculpture, and textile pieces. While most of the work is by contemporary artists, there are a number of traditional artifacts as well.
A notable artist in the current collection is Abdulasis Osman (Aziz), a local Somali painter who received his training in Florence, Italy at the Academy of Fine Arts and Interior Design. A number of Aziz’s impressionistic style oil paintings depict Somali women without Hijab head coverings. Hussein explains that prior to the Somalia’s civil war, women didn’t wear head coverings. Aziz’s women, dressed in traditional African dress, show modest amounts of skin and wear colorful clothes. Aziz has a gift for capturing their complex expressions- a mix of melancholy and sensuality.
Another wonderful artist exhibited in the collection is Kofi Brown, whose silk pieces are simply breathtaking. Strands of silk rope are sewn onto a flat surface to create colorful scenes. Working with a palette of mostly primary colors, the images are two dimensional, with gorgeous patterns and shapes bringing the figures alive.
Some of the pieces exemplify the wide breadth of the African diaspora, with works by South American and North American Artists. Ocayo Pinto, from Salvador de Bahia, paints elaborate social scenes full of activity, including figures performing handstands, holding large sticks, playing music and dancing. His figures are blue-black, without features in their faces, which fill the canvas with a bursting energy.
Afro Universal runs for four months, according to Hussein. I highly recommend you check it out.