Reconstructed/Reconceptualized: Najjar Abdul-Musawwir

Reconstructed/Reconceptualized: Najjar Abdul-Musawwir

September 1 - October 23 2017
Opening Reception: September 1, 4-8 p.m.

Reconstructed reconceptualized

 

Reconstructed/Reconceptualized is an investigation of the history of the banjo and its direct link to African string instruments including the kora, ngoni, nyatiti and xalam, and how their aesthetic descriptions speak passionately to the construction of the banjo. The spiritual kinship between the banjo and African string instruments has created a timeless bridge across the Atlantic Ocean.

Abdul-Musawwir earned his Master of Fine Arts from SIU-Carbondale. His interest in the banjo as an object connecting Africa’s presence in America began in 2000 during a class discussion about Henry Ossawa’s “Banjo Lesson” painting.

“In my studio practice, the aesthetic experiences have been intellectually and emotionally inspiring, and have brought me to a point of investigating the material as content – various wood quality and forms,” Abdul-Musawwir said.

During a three-month residency at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Warren M. Robbins Library, Washington, D.C. in the spring of 2016, Abdul-Mussawir studied a wide range of documents on African string instruments.

“With the professional assistance of librarian Janet Stanley and library technician Karen Brown, I was able to answer many questions on the banjo’s history in America,” he said. “The outcome is a reconceptualization of the banjo and its kinship with Africa.”

Financial assistance for this project has been provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.
A limited print catalog accompanies this exhibition.

The Crisp Museum is located at Southeast Missouri State University’s River Campus in the Cultural Arts Center, located at 518 S. Fountain St. in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

Artist’s Statement 
What is the history of the banjo? Africans created banjos during slavery in North America, and the investigation of African string instruments such as: kora, ngoni, nyatiti, and especially the xalam revealed an aesthetic description that speaks passionately to the construction of these string instruments. The spiritual kinship between the banjo and African string instruments has created a timeless bridge across the Atlantic Ocean. 
In Spring 2000, during a class discussion about the 19th century visual artist, Henry Ossawa Tanner, and his painting titled, Banjo Lesson, I asked my students, “Who created the American banjo?” The reply was, “Hillbillies!” “White southern hillbillies!” Their response was not surprising. My interest in the banjo, as an object connecting Africa’s presence in America began. 
In my studio practice, the aesthetic experiences have been intellectually and emotionally inspiring, and have brought me to a point of investigating the material as content — various wood quality and forms. In Spring 2016, I spent approximately three months during my sabbatical in a self-residency at the Smithsonian Museum of African Art Warren M. Robbins Library, Washington, DC. The library provided a wide range of documents on African string instruments. With the professional assistance of Librarian Janet Stanley and Library Technician Karen Brown, I was able to answer many questions on the banjo’s history in America as well. The outcome is a reconceptualization of the banjo and its kinship with Africa.

GRANTS, HONORS, & RESIDENCIES 
2016 Warren M. Robbins Library, Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, DC (Sabbatical: African string instruments and banjo) Washington University, Center for Diversity and Inclusion, St. Louis, MO

2015 Actors Theatre Gallery, THE 21ST ANNUAL AFRICAN AMERICAN ART EXHIBITION, Louisville, KY

2014 Illinois Education Association Score Grant, Colin Powell Middle School, Matteson, IL

2013 The Joyce Foundation 
African Festival for the Arts, Feature Artist, Chicago, IL (Awarded Commission)

2012 Charles H. Wright Museum, “Vision of Our 44th President,” Detroit, MI

2011 Tuanku Fauziah Museum and Gallery, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia (Artist Residency)

2009 Judge William Holmes Cook Professorship Endowment 
N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, Artist-in-Residence, Detroit, MI (Sabbatical: Mixed-Media and Abstract Painting)

1992 Rickert-Ziebold Trust Award

Contact

573.651.2260
museum@semo.edu
River Campus, 175 Cultural Arts Center
Crisp Museum
One University Plaza, MS 7875
Cape Girardeau, Missouri 63701