Art Grows in Newark: ‘I Found God in Myself’
Visual artists celebrate Dr. Ntozake Shange’s 'for colored girls..'
Back in 1976, Dr. Ntozake Shange’s genre-bending, award-winning choreopoem/play, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, debuted Off Broadway before moving to Broadway. Soon hailed as a classic, the 20-part chronicle of the lives of women of color was later published in book form and adapted into a film directed by Tyler Perry).
Tonight from 6 to 9pm, Newark Arts and City Without Walls (cWOW), located at 6 Crawford Street, will present, “i found god in myself: a celebration of Dr. Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls,” curated by Peter “Souleo” Wright in conjunction with this year’s Open Doors Citywide Arts Festival. Administed by cWOW Executive Director, fayemi shakur, the exhibit celebrates the New Jersey–born author’s classic work. Through ten commissioned art pieces, the exhibition pays tribute to the play with each piece honoring an individual poem and underscoring their enduring significance in highlighting issues impacting the lives of women of color such as sexuality, race, sisterhood, violence and self-love depicted in and inspired by Dr. Shange’s work.
“Since its debut performance in 1974 just outside Berkeley, California, at a bar named the Bacchanal, Dr. Shange’s work has captivated, provoked, inspired and transformed audiences all over the world,” Souleo says in his curatorial statement. “To bring the choreopoem’s themes to visual life, artists have each selected a poem and reimagined it as multimedia art through paint, textile, new media, sound, sculpture, and site-specific installation. Collectively each work in the exhibition gives tangible life-form to the words depicting women’s experiences with love, sexuality, racial identity, domestic violence, sisterhood, and ultimately self-love.”
Participating artists include Amber Robles-Gordon, Beau McCall, Dianne Smith, Kathleen Granados, Kimberly Mayhorn, Margaret Rose Vendryes, Melissa Calderón, Michael Paul Britto, Pamela Council, and Uday K. Dhar. “This exhibition underscores the conversation Dr. Shange started, extending the legacy and impact of her work into the visual arts medium,” explains Souleo. “The issues surrounding love, sexuality, gender equality, racial identity, and, ultimately, self-love explored by her work remain relevant today.”
The exhibition will also include archival material that highlights the creation and evolution of the original text from its 1974 California debut to its Broadway run from the Barnard Archives and Special Collections at Barnard College. “It is not only gratifying but joyous to share for colored girls with the Newark community,” says Dr. Shange. “I am so excited to celebrate for colored girls and the works these artists have created.”
i found god in myself originally debuted in 2014 at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Long Gallery Harlem (formerly The Sol Studio) and La Maison d’Art. It has since traveled to the African-American Museum in Philadelphia, the Houston Museum of African American Culture, and is now presented at City Without Walls. “It is an honor to be able to share Dr. Shange’s work during this year’s Open Doors program,” says cWOW Executive Director, fayemi shakur. “We are grateful for the collaborative efforts of the curator, artists and community stakeholders who helped bring this to fruition.”