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Black Blossoms exhibition in Liverpool

19 September 2017 by Mitty

traditional African design of a Sankofa bird

One of a series of carved laser cut panels based on the Ashanti Adinkra symbols by Artist Merissa Hylton

About a month ago I had the pleasure of meeting Bee Tajudeen and Cynthia Silveria when they were up visiting Liverpool and popped into the International Slavery Museum. Bee is the founder of Black Blossoms, she and tell us about the organisation and their incredible exhibition which is on until 30 September in the Royal Standard in Liverpool. Artist Merrissa Hylton also talks about her work which is featured as part of the display.

Black Blossoms, an organisation which aims to amplify the voices of Black women in the creative industries, have begun their art exhibition tour across the UK. Their first location is The Royal Standard Gallery in Liverpool. The exhibition explores socio-political issues, feminism and self love from the perspective of self identifying Black women artists, living in Britain in 2017. 

The group exhibition, initiated by a call out for work, includes ‘Narratives’ from  Merissa Hylton. Her work is inspired by the connection, particularly that of the Maroons of Jamaica and their West African ancestors and heritage. A lot of her work focuses, in particular, on the relationship between Jamaican and Ghanaian heritage and traditional art.

Merissa explains the ‘Narrative’ series and the importance of symbols and meanings to African and Caribbean communities:

Gye Nyame – Adinkra symbol laser cut by artist Merissa Hylton

“The ‘Narratives’ collection is a set of carved laser cut panels based on the Ashanti Adinkra symbols. Many of these symbols can be found across the Caribbean, but many people do not know, or realise the history behind them. Adinkra symbols are believed to have originated in Gyaman, a former Kingdom in modern day Cote d’Ivoire. According to an Ashanti legend, Adinkra was the name of the Gyaman king who was defeated and captured by the Ashantis.

The Ashanti began painting these symbols onto cloth, pottery and architecture around the 19th century, however during the transatlantic slavery years, many of the symbols were taken across to the Caribbean and Americas along with other African traditions. Despite the Europeans efforts to eradicate our heritage, these symbols and traditions were kept alive by many of the Maroon tribes in the Caribbean. The Maroons were Africans who had managed to escape slavery and retreat into the mountainous regions of the islands. The Maroons, in Jamaica especially, were large in number and the British forces were unable to defeat them, so therefore, left them alone to live in the Mountains.

The ‘Narratives’ collection is made up of 4 Adinkra symbols that I have chosen specifically for their meanings:

  • ‘Sankofa’ – meaning “go back and fetch it” stresses the importance of learning from your history.
  • ‘Gye Nyame’ – meaning “fear none but God” reminds us that the Higher Power is always with us.
  • ‘Adinkrahene’ – means “the chief of Adinkra symbols” and represents greatness and leadership, and finally,
  • ‘Ananse Ntontan’ – meaning “the spider’s’ web” and relates to wisdom and creativity.”

The exhibition is open now until 30 September at The Royal Standard,  Northern Lights, Cains Brewery Village, Grafton St, Liverpool L8 5SD. A full public programme can be seen here.

For more information on Black Blossoms please visit their website or email: info@blackblossoms.org

Ananse Ntontan – One of a series of carved panels based on the Ashanti Adinkra symbols

  1. Blamo says:

    Ananse ntontan is my favourite symbol I love art and design and this pattern expresses my personality. I am of Liberian ancestry both my father and mother are from this seafaring tribe.

    • Stephen, (Sankofa Project) says:

      Really pleased to hear you like Merissa’s art work featured in the exhibition. The work of Black Blossoms is really important so we’re so glad we could support it by telling everyone about this great exhibition in Liverpool!

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