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Artist talk: Onajide Shabaka presents recent project


Staff Writer

A hum of conversation filled the gallery while spotlights hung over the rows of people anticipating the artist’s presentation during the nature/nurture series at the downtown SU gallery Thursday night.

Onajide Shabaka, an artist and cultural practitioner, presented one of his more recent projects, entitled “Antillean Lacunae: A Litany of Botanical.” He educated his audience about the history of how the African slave trade brought people the rice and food they still enjoy today.

He showed maps of the areas from which the rice plants came and described how they traveled to other countries. Shabaka provided his paintings and photos that were based off the history he was presenting.

Shabaka explained the incorporation of how walking contributes to his creative process. Normally he takes pictures with his phone, and practices being mentally aware of his surrounding.

“I just got tired of going to church, there’s too many games, it’s too political, and I felt most spiritual in the woods. That’s how walking started for me,” Shabaka said.

Walter Zimmerman, a visitor at the presentation, said he recognized the basis of Shabaka’s talk about how transatlantic pollination formed capitalism as we know it.

“It’s a fascinating topic, I have been exposed to the same material and it was grueling to read. I had no idea what that enterprise was like,” Zimmerman said.

Tara Gladden, Salisbury University’s gallery manager, said Shabaka is one of generally 12 speakers a year. He is amongst faculty and guest curators that are asked to visit the SU gallery.

“I thought it was interesting to think about the history of plants and how the plants were provided by the slave trade,” Gladden said.

Senior Ashley Broadie attended the talk for a class and was excited to see Shabaka and his pieces. She said he is artistically intelligent in the fact that his pieces were very simple but conveyed something that is complicated politically.

“I’m half Jamaican and have Caribbean roots and it’s cool to be able to relate to these stories and pieces,” Broadie said.

Shabaka’s interactive work allows an opportunity for the public to experience the connectivity of his work.

Some pieces included a photograph of bananas dripping with nectar, followed by a simple photo of two pans of banana bread.

His perception of everyday things can be shared and expanded into reaching mankind through kindness and simplicity.

“I picked the bananas in the photograph, and made six pans of banana bread that I shared with all of my friends,” Shabaka said. “That’s the beautiful thing about food, you can share it with other people.”

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