WATERLOO — Artist Benjamin Smith is connecting with his roots and sharing it with the community by hosting a free art show on Sunday. But it’s not your typical art show — there will be interpretive dance, spoken word artists, speed painting and a keynote speaker.
An Expo Alternative Learning Center staff member and a 2012 Waterloo East High School graduate, Smith said he became tired of seeing African American people portrayed in a negative light. “There’s such a misrepresentation,” he said. “I have such an urge to try to combat that and push out the truth.”
“Lost Diaspora” is a cultural arts event to showcase art based on the culture and struggle that was created as a result of the middle passage, Smith said.
A diaspora refers to a scattered population. The African diaspora refers to the many communities of people of African descent dispersed throughout the world as a result of historic movements, including the Arab and Atlantic slave trades, which are said to be the largest forced migrations in history.
Smith’s “Lost Diaspora” is an event to bring area African Americans back to their cultural heritage and spread awareness to the community. It will be from 5 to 8 p.m. at the University of Northern Iowa Maucker Union Ballroom in Cedar Falls.
Even with 12.6 million Africans displaced from their native home, it could not stop, nor prevent the creative spirit and the desire to establish culture; it simply established a new culture of Pan-Africanism, Smith said. “The art on this night will reflect these powerful ideas.”
Inspired by Marcus Garvey and his Back-to-Africa movement, the event will be styled as a first-of-its-kind show.
Marcus Garvey was an orator for the Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism movements and founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League. Garvey advanced a Pan-African philosophy which inspired a global mass movement, known as Garveyism.
During the show, there will be two speed paintings done that will be donated to the Center for Multicultural Education. Smith and his friend, Wesley Buttz, a 2012 Expo graduate, launched the online art business Eye-Odine in 2012.
Smith creates traditional oil paintings as well as graphic art pieces, and Buttz works with spray paint. Both create pieces that aim to solve systemic issues and bring awareness to history. The two have sold their work all over the country.
Smith also works for are nonprofits, including the Waterloo Writers Project, The Job Foundation, The Village Keeper of Waterloo, and launched the Etcetera Literary Art Magazine while studying for his associate’s degree at Hawkeye Community College.
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He also is in the Teach Waterloo program, a partnership with UNI and Waterloo Schools that aims to increase the number of minority teachers to support student success. He will receive a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a minor in history.
The event is kid-friendly and will have multiple intermissions. Visitors are encouraged to learn from the event and simply have fun. For more information follow Eyeodine/Facebook or join the newsletter eyeodine.net.
The Davis Brothers:
- a group performing dance and telling a story through interpretive dance.
Loréal Nichelle Lester:
- a poet and spoken word artist who will show the similarities and differences between diaspora sub-cultures.
- will be completing two speed paintings during the event that will be donated to the Center for Multicultural Education.
- will perform Bomba dancing, a traditional dance and musical style of Puerto Rico.
Pierre-Damien Mvuyekure: An African professor from UNI and a renowned DJ of KBBG who runs a network connecting black people to their African roots, will be the keynote speaker for the night.Women’s Mobile Museum exhibition photos