Mocada Museum - A Renaissance Of Foreign African Artists
In a world where being normal is encouraged, we come across phenomenal places like the Mocada Museum. A true source of inspiration to transcend normalcy and a place that will live on in the hearts of Africans for years to come. MoCADA’s mission is to rediscover valuable African cultural traditions that were lost through colonization and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and to foster a dynamic space for the creation of the continuous evolution of culture.
Since the days of the Harlem Renaissance, many movements have sought to preserve and celebrate African culture and MoCADA is one of the few that have been able to achieve this in a modern and socially relevant way. The Harlem Renaissance was the most influential movement in African American literary history. Harlem, New York City attracted a remarkable concentration of intellect and talent and served as the symbolic capital of a cultural awakening. Harlem embraced the literary, musical, theatrical and visual arts. This was displayed in unrivaled plays such as the musical play Shuffle Along which opened at the 63rd Street Musical Hall in New York. The play ran 474 performances on Broadway and spawned three touring companies.
MoCADA was established to revive this black artistic talent and cause African American intellectuals to look on their African heritage with new eyes and in many cases with a desire to reconnect with a heritage long despised or misunderstood by both whites and blacks.
The MoCADA museum is the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA). It was founded in 1999 by Laurie Angela Cumbo in a brownstone townhouse owned by the Bridge Street AWME Church in the Bedford-Stuyvesant community of Brooklyn, New York. It is the first museum of its kind to be opened in New York.
Laurie developed the concept of the museum from her graduate thesis at New York University, which focused on the feasibility of an African diaspora museum contributing to the revitalization of central Brooklyn, economically, socially and aesthetically.
The museum began with socially and politically charged exhibitions and public programs focused on contemporary issues impacting people of the African diaspora. Seventeen years later, The MoCADA Museum has grown to serve both adults and youth throughout the diaspora, with an emphasis on underserved communities of color, through a diverse range of exhibitions, education and community programs. This is achieved through on-site as well as out-of-doors programming. Seventeen years later, MoCADA has grown to serve both adults and youth throughout the diaspora, with an emphasis on underserved communities of color, through a diverse range of exhibitions, education and community programs.
In 2006, The MoCADA Museum moved to its current home, an expanded space at 80 Hanson Place, at South Portland Avenue, in Fort Greene, a historically black middle-class neighborhood in Brooklyn which is home to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) arts district. The MoCADA Museum has grown to accommodate many exhibitions throughout the year that highlight various identities of the African Diaspora. The central location of Fort Greene allows for a cross-section of the Brooklyn community to gather at MoCADA and partake in the many events produced for each exhibition. MoCADA's large bookstore has ample space to host events such as book readings, student tours, and musical events.
These events include the Exhibition and Curatorial Program, The Curatorial Fellowship and Internship Program, the Educational Artist-In-Schools and Guided Tours Program, the KIDflix Film Fest of Bed-Stuy, MoCADA Television, and the Soul of Brooklyn Tourism Initiative. MoCADA is currently working with Rodney Leon Architects PLLC to design the future home of MoCADA.
The MoCADA Museum believes that the concept of the museum exists within its people and it is the museum’s goal to serve as a conduit for African Diaspora forms of expression ranging from the visual and performing arts to film and television with the goal of repositioning the continent of Africa and its people in both a foundational and central role in world development.
The MoCADA Museum continues to use the visual arts as a point of departure for exploring new artistic production across a variety of disciplines. Through exhibitions and programming, MoCADA incites dialogue on pressing social and political issues facing the African Diaspora and fosters a dynamic space for the creation and continuous evolution of culture.
Major Exhibitions and Featured Artists
In Dew Time: Artists in School Program Exhibition
In Dew Time featured the interdisciplinary work of students from MoCADA’s 2017 Artists in Schools program. These artists conceptualized what it means to create art around the theme of S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) while developing a better understanding of the African Diaspora. Teaching Artists Austin Greene, Alexis Mena, Sawdayah Brownlee, M. Scott Johnson and Zaria Poem guided their students through the multi-layers of their own conflicts, solutions, desires and defense mechanisms through sculpture, painting, drawing, animation and sound design.
Diagram of The Heart by Glenda Gordon
Intending to document the relationship between the ‘books of love’ and the daily lives of the Northern Nigerian women who wrote them, Glenna Gordon was made privy to the myriad of possibilities that exist for women as they navigate domestic interiors, wedding ceremonies, and public space. While the resulting images were intentionally ambiguous in judgment, the women were revealed within sites of conflict and vitality.
Gordon maintained a healthy skepticism of documentary photography and its use as an agent for social change and awareness. However, she was certain of the effect of images on perception and subsequent behaviors. Taking her own understanding of Nigeria to task, Diagram of the Heart affirmed the ability of the medium to unsettle the predominant narrative of a place toward one that is in conversation and evolving.
Tea Time by Theresa Chromati
Tea Time, by Theresa Chromati, references commonplace traditions as the passive residue of colonization. Yet, as the tea is taken “black,” this specific practice is recontextualized to offer a space of affirmation, solidarity, protection, and endearment. The multicolored domestic space is pungently rendered, suggesting it as a robust site of reflection on identity and social relationships. Masked black figures dressed in teacups and teapots are either seen in defense, collectively lifting a carton of milk out of their private interior, or in repose indulging in one another’s nourishment.
Tea embraces a double-meaning, referencing the hot drink and its healing abilities, as well as the informal use that indicates possession of a highly coveted piece of information. The five-panel work is further extended through accompanying audio by Pangelica, with Chromati lending a bold, self-assured voice to proclaim, “I got more than enough,” against sounds of crying lambs, gas escaping bubbles, and an ambient tropical storm.
Le Projet Nouveau
The MoCADA Museum presented Le Projet Nouveau, a multi-media platform that reflects the voices of many artists who propose ecological, cosmological, architectural and sociological methods to be used in Haiti's reconstruction. Coinciding with the 1st anniversary of the devastating earthquake that ravaged the country, this project serves to facilitate the production of ideas and actions in modern day Haiti. Le Projet Nouveau brings together 18 artists whose work presents ideas about the reconstruction of Haiti.
The exhibiting artists draw upon political, cultural, architectural and socio-economic themes to propose what can be offered towards the re-shaping of the first black republic. The exhibition highlights the aesthetic response of artists to the turbulence that has plagued the nation since it gained independence from France in 1804.
The artists in the exhibition used their practices to visualize Haiti's future by re-imagining the country through its people, its culture, the African Diaspora, and its artistic legacy. The artists featured in this exhibit are as follows: Trevor Brown, Nelson Caban, Rebekah A. Frimpong, Edouard Steinhauer, Michele Stephenson, Wahala Temi, Adrienne E. Wheeler, Nathan Williams and Tracee Worley.
Other exhibitions include Pixelating: Black in New Dimensions, Feed Your Head: The African Origin of the Scientific Aesthetic, Gentrification of Brooklyn, Black Madonna, Ain’t I A Woman, The French Evolution: Race, Politics and the 2005 Riots, Standing with Papa Legba: Vodou at the Crossroads, Re-imagining Haiti and Saying No: Reconciling Spirituality and Resistance in Indigenous Australian Art.
In 2012, the museum landed a $100,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to pay for a two-year program that brought monthly concerts to public spaces in Houses like Walt Whitman, Ingersoll, and Farragut in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. The concert series, titled "Public Exchange," attracted talented musicians and drew crowds up to 500 or 600. It brought together groundbreaking programming to traditionally underrepresented areas of Public Housing in Brooklyn.
The following year in 2013, The MoCADA Museum launched another art performance series, Soul of Brooklyn, which is "a series of block-party style arts events meant to bring the community together and promote local businesses”. As the current executive director stated: “Soul of Brooklyn Block Parties are meant to concentrate Brooklyn’s artistic energy in a single place at a single time, to bring people together and foster interactions between artists and the whole community. What better way to increase vibrancy in our community than to showcase this renaissance in the streets and the businesses that people visit every day? Rather than expecting people to adapt their lives to the arts, we bring the arts right to the people”.
Other community development programs include the KID flix Fest of Bed-Stuy which is a free annual film festival for kids and their families. Laurie Cumbo, the founder of the MoCADA Museum also continues to personally contribute to her community.
The MoCADA Museum and the Harlem Renaissance have brought dignity to the African American. They have renewed the faith of black people in their heritage and whites are beginning to take notice. The acknowledgment of black culture is progressively growing and this has been made evident by the numerous examples of statues of old white supremacist icons being removed and which are still being removed in formerly Confederate states. This shows that there is a new shift in consciousness that acknowledges the struggles and history of different ethnicities. A new day has come and the legends of the Harlem Renaissance would be proud of how far African Americans have come.