Africa in the Arts of Philadelphia: Bullock, Searles, and Twins Seven-Seven
Susanna W. Gold, Ph.D., Guest Curator
Africa in the Arts of Philadelphia brings together the work of visual artists Barbara Bullock (born 1938), Charles Searles (1937–2004), and Twins Seven-Seven (1944–2011), exploring their collaborative cross-fertilization of ideas and assertions of African and African American cultural identity. These artists participated in the activities of the Ile-Ife Black Humanitarian Center in North Philadelphia. Conceived and established in 1969 by dancer and choreographer Arthur Hall (1934–2000), Ile-Ife offered visual arts, performance, and musical arts classes and programs for the Philadelphia community. The center’s goals focused on educating audiences in traditional African culture and aesthetics and infusing African and African-inspired art forms into contemporary Philadelphia experience.
Ile-Ife derives its name from the ancient Yoruba city of Ife, held to be the site of the world’s creation, according to Yoruba mythology. Ile-Ife was Philadelphia’s primary conduit for sharing and celebrating the great traditions of Africa in building community through a shared sense of strength and pride. Bullock and Searles formed Ile-Ife’s art department, while Twins Seven-Seven introduced authentic Yoruba culture and aesthetics into its activities. Africa in the Arts of Philadelphia examines the work of these artists and their formative experiences at Ile-Ife, which expanded their understanding of the richness of African traditions.
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