Art Collective Salutes Kwanzaa Principles

Originally posted in South Florida Times

Written by Cynthia Roby

Artists in the Kuumba Artists Collective of South Florida are staging their annual salute to the seven principles of Kwanzaa with an exhibition in the ArtLab33 studio in the Miami neighborhood of Wynwood.

“Putting an exhibit together in the spirit of all of the traditional African community values is our way to celebrate the seven principles,” Dinizulu Gene Tinnie, the collective’s founding member, said.

“It’s also a way to introduce young people to the arts, teach them about the principles [and] let them know that there is art that celebrates who we are,” Tinnie said.

The collective, named for one of the principles of Kwanzaa signifying creativity, hosted the opening reception for its Kuumba Kwanzaa Art Exhibition on Dec. 22. It will run until Jan. 1, the last day of Kwanzaa.

The exhibit features the diverse, original works of 16 photographers, draftsmen and sculptors.

It includes pieces from members of the collective that were exhibited during the time of Art Basel 2010, according to Altiné, the exhibition organizer.

“We kept the Basel exhibition up, added a few pieces and then turned it into the Kwanzaa exhibit,” Altiné said.

Among the works being exhibited by Miami artist Robert McKnight is a tile and concrete sculpture titled Mockingbird.

“Everybody paints and draws but I like to do something different with my artwork,” said McKnight, whose studio is in Miami’s historic Bakehouse Art Complex.

The lapis-colored tiles used in the piece, he said, were leftovers from a mosaic mural.

McKnight primarily works in 3D, using wood collages to build relief forms exploiting shadows and light. Instead of working with wood, McKnight said, he uses a collage approach, allowing the patterns to self-complete.

“This way, the piece is more chaotic, spontaneous and non-objective,” he explained.

Between 1993 and 1998, Miami Lakes photographer James A. Rush captured historic outdoor murals painted by the late Miami artist Oscar Thomas. One piece is titled Prince of Peace.

“The photo was taken before the mural’s renovation,” said Rush, who developed an interest in photography at age 6.

The 10-foot-by-12-foot Prince of Peace mural featuring a montage of portraits of the slain human rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and a quotation in script from his last speech, has graced the corner of Northwest Seventh Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard since 1994.

Rush’s 16-by-20-inch framed photo capturing the black-and-white mural in its original state was photographed shortly after its completion. The mural’s line form, texture and light are well preserved in the picture.

Thomas, who died in 1997 at age 41, is remembered for his social consciousness, the pride he had in his cultural heritage, the history reflected in his paintings and the murals he painted on buildings around Overtown, Liberty City and Opa-locka.

Each year the Kuumba Artists Collective honors Thomas’ work through an Oscar Thomas Memorial People’s Art Exhibition in Liberty City.

Onajide Shabaka, owner of ArtLab33 described the Kwanzaa exhibit as “a valiant effort.”

“An artist becoming part of the art conversation in Miami is a great experience,” Shabaka said. “I was happy to offer the space.”

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