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Lafayette’s new Temple Visiting Lecture Series, focusing on African Americans in the arts, debuts November 1, 2, and 6.

  • The McDonogh Report celebrates the contributions of African Americans to the Lafayette community.

Events in the inaugural year of the David L., Sr. and Helen J. Temple Visiting Lecture Series include an artist’s residency and public talk by painter and printmaker Barbara Bullock; a workshop by native West African musician Foday Musa Suso; and a lecture by professor, art historian, and independent curator Helen Shannon.

Bullock will speak on “Spirit House” at noon Wednesday, Nov. 1, in room 108 of the Williams Center for the Arts. Lunch will be provided.

Suso will give an African drumming workshop at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 2, in the David A. Portlock Black Cultural Center. Dinner will be provided.

Shannon, an African American art historian, will speak on “Primitivism and African American Modernism: The Folk and the African,” at noon Monday, Nov. 6, in room 108 of the Williams Center for the Arts. Lunch will be provided.

The series has been established by Riley K. Temple, a Lafayette trustee and a member of the Class of 1971, in honor of his father and mother. Temple is a partner in the law firm of Halprin, Temple, Goodman & Sugrue, Washington, D.C.

“Lectures and performances highlighting and honoring prominent African American artists will be held each year in November,” says Rexford A. Ahene, associate professor of economics and business and coordinator of Lafayette’s Africana Studies program.

In 1997 Bullock was awarded a Pew Fellowship in the Arts. The fellowships are grants $50,000 to artists working in a wide variety of performing, visual, and literary disciplines.

A primary goal of the fellowships is to recognize and support the contributions of working artists to the cultural environment of the Philadelphia area. The fellowships are awarded directly to the artists, enabling them to dedicate themselves solely to creative pursuits.

Bullock has shown her work in several solo and group exhibitions and has served numerous residencies.

“I am concerned with the continuation of movement, energy, beliefs, and spirit in my paintings,” Bullock says. “My work is about connections and retentions. Shaped paintings give me the freedom to define statements I wish to make; they are direct conversations with the viewer. The shapes can become paintings within paintings. Working with collage, I see people as layers of stories, and habitats and places as energies.

“My work seeks to stimulate, nourish, and explore. The stimulus is research, travel, experimentation, painting, teaching, and exploring new materials. My art is a continuum; I want it to express spirit, strength, and survival. After traveling to Africa, Brazil, and Mexico, I have continued to research Africa and the countries of its diaspora. This gives texture, visual manifestation, and excitement to my painting and teaching,” she continues.

Suso is an internationally recognized musician and a Mandingo griot (musician/oral historian of the Mandingo people) born in West Africa. Suso grew up in a society where griots function as walking libraries, singing their stories for the community while providing history, wisdom, and entertainment. Tribal conflicts, empires and kingdoms, cultural heroes, and family lineage are part of his traditional repertoire, which encompasses extensive verbal and musical recitations. In addition to his singing and virtuosic playing of the kora (West African 21-stringed harp lute), Suso is also a drummer and composer.

He was born in the West African nation of Gambia and spent his childhood on a peanut farm, studying music and history as an heir to the hereditary griot lineage. After years of rigorous study he established himself in Chicago in the 1970’s and since has performed throughout Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. Interested in both traditional and cutting-edge idioms, Suso has toured and recorded with many prominent musicians including Herbie Hancock, Philip Glass, Pharoah Sanders, and Ginger Baker.

In addition, Suso has worked closely with the Kronos Quartet, an ensemble who commissioned him to compose five works. They collaborated at venues ranging from New York’s Lincoln Center and California’s Institute of the Arts to the Staatsoper Opera House in Vienna, Austria and the Royal Festival Hall in London. Performing with a variety of other artists, as a soloist, or as leader and founder of the fusion-jazz band, The Mandingo Griot Society, Suso has also appeared at New York’s Carnegie Hall and Central Park Summerstage, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, Frankfurt International Jazz Festival in Germany and at the Cultural Center in Ulan Bator, Mongolia.

Among the many record labels Suso has recorded for are: Island, Lyrichord, Folkways, Axiom, CBS, Sony, Flying Fish, Celluloid, CMP, Point Music/Philips Classics, Ellipsis Arts, Rhizome Sketch, Polygram, and Elektra Nonesuch. He has also performed on several film soundtracks including Roots, Powaqqatsi, and Mountain of the Moon. Other career highlights include working as a performer and consultant for a Japanese documentary film on African music and the book/CD, Jali Kunda: Griots of West Africa and Beyond.

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