February is Black History Month and in celebration Pathways ARTS has hosted a series of relevant events. Beginning on Jan. 16 with an evening of readings of works either by or inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. On Feb 6 Pathways screened an episode of the seven-part PBS series “Have You Heard from Johannesburg,” followed by a Q&A with activist Caroline Hunter. The Emmy award-winning series is about Oliver Tambo, the legendary but largely unknown hero of the South Africa transition. Episode 6, which was featured at Pathways, focuses on the first-ever international grassroots campaign to successfully use economic pressure to help bring down a government.
Ms. Hunter, a former chemist at Polaroid, helped to spearhead divestment initiatives by creating the Polaroid Revolutionary Worker Movement, which pressured Polaroid to ban sales to the South African government. Ms. Hunter then testified before the United Nations, advocating a boycott of Polaroid products.
“What’s interesting is that a lot of the issues they cover in the series are suddenly re-emerging as a national debate in South Africa, with a new president sworn in last week,” says Pathways director Tanya Augoustinos, who is originally from South Africa. “The opposition groups are keeping his feet to the fire, to follow through with ensuring that all the truly democratic opportunities are indeed availed to the black population, as promised in the constitution.”
Broadcast on PBS as “Have You Heard From Johannesburg,” and on BBC as “The World Against Apartheid,” the full seven-film series is available to watch online at clarityfilms.org.
Pathways’ Black History Month celebration also encompasses an exhibition of work by three African American artists — James W. Jennings, Chioke Morais, and Suesan Stovall. All three artists have very diverse styles and themes, although all create unique, often experimental, work.
Suesan Stovall has her own space, the Groovy Sue Gallery on Spruce Lane in Oak Bluffs. She creates mixed-media assemblages using paint, photography, and found materials. Her influences and themes include African American history, current politics, South African graffiti art, children’s toys, her own photography, street scenes, and culture and minstrel memorabilia, to name a few.
Chioke Morais, a graduate of the Parsons School of Design in New York, is the former founder and director of Bent Wing Arts Group of Chicago. He creates assemblages featuring acrylics, photocopies, and found objects. His work can be found in the collections of the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis and Parsons School, as well as in private collections in Chicago, St. Louis, New York, and Hawaii. One of Morais’s “Flag” paintings was used as cover art for the album Americana — an instrumental hip-hop album from artist Cee Beyond.
Mr. Jennings creates abstract art that represents a form of energy. In his artist’s statement he writes, “My goal as an artist is to create an environment where truth is as accessible as possible so that people can feel it even if they don’t necessarily see or agree. I embrace a God-given symmetry and a balance I intuitively trust no matter how far I venture or how violently opposed to reality reality may seem. There’s an invisible bond between us. I try to illuminate that.”
The current exhibit will hang through the first week of March.
The Pathways season will continue through April with a variety of events. Next up, on Friday, Feb. 23, will be an evening of dance performances and videos featuring Christina Montoya introducing the MV Hip Hop Dancers: The Spinners & The Spin Crew from the Spindrift Studio. Dancers include Sophie Hiller, Alise Eve, Jess Francis, Lizzy Kent, Arielle Hayes, and Christina Montoya. Corinne de Langavant has been experimenting with improv and will return accompanied by musicians Andy Herr on guitar and David Stanwood on piano. Selected video shorts of innovative dance by celebrated choreographers will be screened, including French choreographer, Cie Hervé Koubi, Guillaume Cote, Gregory Hines, and Mikhail Baryshnikov. The special guest DJ this month is Dern Campbell, and the community is invited to dance.
On Thursday, March 8, Pathways will celebrate International Women’s Day with its 5th annual Women Live! event. The evening will feature video, dance, music, poetry and more. That event will be followed by a performance on Friday, March 9, of new choreography by Danielle Doell with Leah Crosby and Abby Bender. For the full Pathways schedule, visit pathwaysmv.org.