Ancestry in transition exhibit premieres

Dr. Molefi Kete Asante, left, and artist Ife Nii-Owoo stand in front of one of Nii-Owoo’s paintings. — TRIBUNE PHOTO BY ROBERT MENDELSOHN

There was a terrific turnout of artists and art lovers on Jan. 27 for the opening of the exhibit "Ancestry in Transition," featuring Philadelphia artist Ife Nii Owoo. The exhibit and opening reception were held at The Molefi Kete Asante (MKA) Institute in Germantown. The show is a visual feast and will be on exhibit through April 24.

Ana Yenenga Asante, executive director of Molefi Kete Asante (MKA) Institute, said, “I am very pleased that Ife Nii Owoo, who has studied African Visual Arts at the Institute of African Studies in Accra, Ghana and lived in London, England, and Africa for nine years, is our featured artist.”

“Molefi Kete Asante Institute for Afro-centric Studies is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy organization based in Philadelphia. The Institute conducts social science and cultural studies research in education, economics, municipal governance, African American quality of life indices, African policy, language policy, and cultural development domestically and internationally. The aim is to provide practical, innovative, and agency-centered analyses, critiques and reports to encourage and support a more secure, safe, and productive national society as well as to positively impact the ordinary lives of African people.”

Nii Owoo has received numerous awards, recognition and grants including the prestigious Leeway Foundation Change Award. In 2010, she was commissioned to create “Freedom and Slavery in the Making of a New Nation,” a visual graphic treatment for the slave memorial space at The President’s House Commemorative Memorial Site, Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia.

“As a visual storyteller, I'm exploring color, texture and pattern. Presently, I have been working outside of the traditional canvas — creating fans, shaped collages and mixed media. Many of my pieces are also assemblages of images and found objects. I am using objects and, images I've collected over the years. I am basically what may be called a rescuer by nature, and presently I have channeled that part of my nature into my work. It has been an interesting journey, seeing what shows up and what is salvageable,” Nii Owoo explained.

Prominent members of the Philadelphia art community attending the opening day of the exhibit included: Barbara Bullock, collage artist and painter; Lewis Tanner Moore, art collector; Martina Johnson-Allen, artist; Laura Chassot, painter; Monna Morton and Denys Davis, Indagahome blog; Barbara Wallace, Barbara Wallace & Associates Fine Art Services; Justine De Van, Philadelphia Chapter of National Conference of Artist (NCA);Theodore Harris, collage artist and Tieshka Smith, photographer

Others “Out & About” enjoying the exhibit were: Maria Pajil Battle, president, AmeriHealthMercy Foundation; Glenn Ellis, health and wellness educator and writer; Adrian J. Moody, Moody & Shields; Shiela Linton; Phillip Seitz; Ann Marie Anderson; Molefi Asante; Harriet Shiffer; Michele Webster; Everett Stanton; Dore Hewitt, and St. Clair Hewitt; Michele and Pinkney Webster; Janet Ohene Frempong; Marliyn Johnson; Kweku Nii Owoo; Anthony Bell and Sibal Couche.

“I was impressed by Ife's styling of mixed media. Her artistic arrangement of colors, recycled materials and family heirlooms makes her work warm and cheerful," said Everett Staton, founder of the Black History and Culture Showcase.

Guests listened attentively to Ife Nii Owoo discuss her life's experiences which have inspired her art.

“Both the visual and oral presentations were inspiring,” said Harriet B. Schiffer, president of LFS for Wonoo Ventures.

Nii-Owoo’s illustrations and designs are seen on numerous jackets of books of the Afro-centric literary movement of the 1990s. In 1992 she wrote, and illustrated a children's book entitled "A is for Africa: Looking at Africa through the Alphabet” while working primarily as a graphic artist for more than 20 years. In 2007, she created a new body of work that consists of collages, paintings and mixed media assemblages.

All of work in the exhibition is for sale and 20 percent of sales will be donated to the MKA Institute. For more information about MKA Institute visit their web site, www.

For more information about Ife Nii-Owoo, visit her web site at

Have a fantastic week “Out & About,” everyone!

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