Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #37

Contents

CARVED MEMORIES AND HISTORY

LALITA TADEMY BRINGS RED RIVER TO ROXBURY

EL-DABH, A ‘LIVING LEGEND’

QUEEN OF COMEDY REIGNS IN BOSTON

“DEPARTED” EDITOR HONORED AT COOLIDGE

VERHOEVE’S “BLACK BOOK” TRANSFORMS

GRINDHOUSE GRINDS

IMPERFECT STRANGERS

UP-COMING EVENTS


CARVED MEMORIES AND HISTORY

by Kay Bourne

pictured: Vusi carved the portrait of himself with his twin sister after she was killed in a car crash at age 25. The sculpture was on display at the Piano Craft gallery memorial service.

photo credit: Kay Bourne

8d2b788a3c804e4b7640f16c55a3a03e.124.83 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #37A powerhouse of a collection, which might even be better termed a “council,” of over 50 of VUSI MADUNA‘s assemblage masks and standing wood carvings made a striking display. They illuminated the large basement area that is The Gallery at the Piano Factory, 791 Tremont Street in Lower Roxbury.

Born in Cambridge, Vusi, a resident of the Boston Piano Factory building until his recent passing, saw his art as a spiritual link to a distant African past, a link through which the wisdom of his ancestors is conveyed.

One of his public art projects is the steel sculpture “The Judge,” installed outside the Roxbury Courthouse in the Dudley Station area.

In an interview with this writer in 1989, Vusi said that the reason “there is no mouth on this piece, but all the other faculties, is that it puts the onus of admittance on the defendant.

“Human behavior is the responsibility of the individual. The piece is meant to make you deal with your own behavior,”

Vusi was thinking particularly of the young people flowing into the courts.

“What it says to them is, your father, mother, uncle, somebody told you the truth. I know you understand it. This piece is another somebody talking about human interaction, about how might is not right,” he said.

The exciting presentation at the Piano Craft gallery of pieces from four decades of Vusi‘s work, had been curated by Ekua Holmes with the assistance of his family and many artists, including Maddu Huacuja, who were friends of Vusi‘s.The work must come down to make way for an exhibition of jazz related art put up in association with Jazz Week celebrations throughout the city, however, you can see his pieces on-line if you visit the link at the end of this article, provided by AAMARP resident photographer Hakim Raquib.

Many of Vusi’s friends and his wife and two children gathered at the gallery, April 14, to swap stories about the reclusive artist who had so determinedly guarded his privacy and yet had established many firm and loving relationships.

Before longtime friend and fellow Piano Craft building resident Arnie Cheatham played a lyrical solo dedicated to Vusi, the saxophonist recalled how Vusumuzi Maduna worried that the African name that had been given him replacing his name Dennis Diddley was “such a mouthful.” Arnie told him, “just keep saying it to people and they’ll get used to it. Sometimes it’s good to be reborn.” Then, Cheatham blew Billy Strayhorn’s composition “Daydream,” a favorite of Vusi’s.

In introducing the speakers, Ekua Holmes gestured to the exhibit that surrounded them and the audience. “The star of the exhibit is Vusi,” she said,” and like stars in nature, his life’s work, his art, will continue to be with us, shining and shedding its light.”

Among the speakers were Vusi’s immediate family, his companion Lena James and their two children, now adults, Basonge James and Niamia James. Also remembering Vusi and his work at the microphone were longtime friend and fellow artist Johnetta Tinker, art scholar and director of the Museum of the National Center of Afro American Artists E. Barry Gaither, and this writer.

For more info on Vusi’s art, please contact Ekua Holmes at ekua@ejde signsonline.com or by phone at 617-780-9765.

view VUSI’s art here

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