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Ashé Cultural Arts Center Presents "The African Presence in México: From Yanga to the Present"


October 14, 2013

Contact Viola T. Johnson


NEW ORLEANS, LA - Ashé Cultural Arts Center, 1712 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. in New Orleans, will showcase The African Presence in México, an educational panel display based on the most comprehensive project ever organized about African contributions to Mexican culture featuring the The African Presence in Mexico: From Yanga to the Present, Roots. This exhibition is brought to the Center courtesy of The National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago (NMMA). It features numerous public and educational programs, and examines the missing chapter in Mexican history that highlights the contributions of Africans to Mexican culture over the past nearly 500 years.  The intent is to stimulate a better understanding of Mexican culture and its African roots. It will run from November 1, to February 28, 2014.

The educational panels are a compilation of images replicated from the original African Presence in Mexico that toured around the USA. These images represent segments of the original exhibition.

The African Presence in Mexico: From Yanga to the Present

Curated by Sagrario Cruz of the University of Veracruz and the NMMA's Visual Arts Director Cesáreo Moreno, the exhibition will focus on the overlooked history of African contributions to Mexican culture from 1519 to the present day. For nearly 500 years, the existence and contributions of the African descendants in Mexico have been overlooked. Africans arrived in Mexico in 1519. Yanga, an African leader, founded the first free African township in the Americas (January 6, 1609).  Since then Africans have continued to contribute their artistic, culinary, musical, and traditions to Mexican culture through the present day. No exhibition has showcased the history, artistic expressions, and practices of Afro-Mexicans in such a broad scope as this one, which includes a comprehensive range of artwork from 18th Century Colonial Caste Paintings to contemporary artistic expressions. The exhibition features artists such as Rufino Tamayo, Elizabeth Catlett, Francisco Toledo, Francisco Mora, Maria Yampolski; and Afro-Mexicano artists: Ignacio Canela, Mario Guzmán, Guillermo Vargas, and Hermengildo González.

Common Goals, Common Struggles, Common Ground
This interactive exhibition, Common Goals, Common Struggles, Common Ground, presents a balanced account of historical issues that are common to both the Mexican and African American communities in Chicago, with applications to South Bend. It identifies struggles shared by both communities, such as the ones found within the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

The Civic Dialogue: Discussions, Performances, Public Events
As part of the educational panel display, there will be a series of public events held in New Orleans and at Ashé Cultural Arts Center that will be dedicated to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This display will amplify themes addressed in the series of events spearheaded by Ashé Cultural Arts Center.

The educational programming for students grades K-12 will consist of curriculum development, professional development for teachers, assemblies, panel discussions, and lectures for students, loan kits for schools, and interactive CD packets.

Project Overview
Mexico's rich culture has been long recognized in art, archaeology, and many other fields. However, a very important, but largely unknown contribution to Mexico's history has been that of the Africans whose forced immigration as enslaved people to Mexico began in the 1500s.  Neither the presence nor accomplishments of Mexicans of African decent have been recognized by the mainstream in Mexico. It reflects how the Mexican populace is out of touch with its African population and its contribution to its culture and history.

Likewise in the United States, it is of great significance that African Americans and Mexicans are the two largest groups of color in the United States, and, in most cities, represent the two largest ethnic groups. Yet, there is very little dialogue between African Americans and Mexicans. It is widely held that the two groups speak to the white community more than they speak to each other. The educational panels display from The African Presence in Mexico: From Yanga to the Present, will provide a tremendous opportunity for these two groups to embrace a common cultural past. It also allows the rest of American society to better understand the complexity of race issues that face both the United States and Mexico today.

It is our hope that the educational panels display and related programming will contribute to collaborations with African American and other culturally-grounded organizations. Ashé Cultural Arts Center will be an ideal "convener" for this discussion at this turning point in American history. The untold story of African contributions to Mexican culture in Mexico and in the United States will be the foundation of the discussion.

About Ashé Cultural Arts Center
Ashé Cultural Arts Center, a project of Efforts of Grace, Inc., was established in 1998 by cofounders Carol Bebelle and Douglas Redd. It is an effort to combine the intentions of neighborhood and economic development with the awesome creative forces of community, culture and art to revive and reclaim a historically significant corridor in Central City New Orleans:  Ashé uses art and culture for human and community development.  The center is located in historic Central City, on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard (formerly known as Dryades Street). Ashé produces and sponsors cultural and community programs, original theater works, dance productions, spoken word, visual arts, conferences, workshops, events, and more.

Schedule of Public and Education Programs:
All events are held at Ashé Cultural Arts Center, 1712 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. in New Orleans (unless otherwise noted)

November 1, 2013, 4:00-7:00 p.m.; free and open to the public
Opening of The African Presence in Mexico Education Panels Display

November 2, 2013; free and open to the public
Day of the Dead.  Altar at Casa Borrega, 1719 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.

November 8, 2013, 6:00-10:00 p.m.; free and open to the public
Venezuelan Embassy Reception

November 14, 2013, 6:00-9:00 p.m.; free and open to the public
Reception for special guest Carlos Tortolero, President of National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago

January 15, 2014, Noon
Special Event, César Chavez / Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Luncheon