Posts Tagged ‘menil’

Thank you Otabenga Jones & Associates


In lieu of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I wanted to focus on artists that have somewhat of a political agenda.  Who would have thought Houston, of all places, would be the birth place an incredibly articulate collective whose  goal is “to teach the truth to young Black youth.”  According to reviews of their installation at the Menil entitled “Lessons from Below”, “they’re also managing to teach people who aren’t young and aren’t black.”

Meet Otabenga Jones & Associates, an organization of visual and literary artist/activist based out of Houston.  The organization is named after Ota Benga, an African Pygmy brought to the United States in 1904 and who was on display at the Bronx Zoo during a time that it was popular to exhibit Africans and other non-Western peoples for public entertainment.  The zoo released Ota Benga after some years and upon realizing the improbability of his return to Africa, Ota Benga ended his own life in 1916.  His death certificate read, “Otti Bingo,” a nickname he had received from fellow employees at the tobacco factory he had found work. This alone should illustrate the keen sensitivity to black history that fuels this collective, which realizes themselves in the form of actions, writings, and installations.

The members of the organization include, Dawolu Jabari Anderson, Jamal Cyrus, Kenya Evans and Robert Pruitt.  In the last few years they have had a few collaborative installations, including one at the Menil where they were given free range to curate a show with elements culminated from the storehouses of the Menil collection.  As a collective they are a powerful, intelligent, but yet graceful crew of contemporaries illuminating historical and current trends in African representation, what’s more is that they are each outstanding artists individually.  Check them out, I can say no more.

They currently have a website featuring a collection of amazing videos, some of which are being revoked from youtube, for whatever reason.

One of many badass videos you’ll find on their website:

Individual works by a few members of the collective:

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!