Water is the connecting element that runs through the works of Adama Delphine Fawundu. The artist is interested in the nexus of social movements and collective tendencies and how these are mirrored in the motif of water. With a view to and awareness of transhistorical connections, a range of temporalities are connected: past, present, and future all coincide within Fawundu’s artistic vision.
As a locus of memory, the sea narrates generations of its own stories – and it is here that Derek Walcott’s poem The Sea is History, a source of inspiration to Fawundu alongside texts by Anton Wilhelm Amo, offers many forms of explicit connection. Fawundu's most recent video, Sunsum in Spirit, is currently part of an exhibition THE FACULTY OF SENSING at the Kunstverein Braunschweig in Germany. For her contribution to the exhibition, the artist pursued and filmed along Braunschweig’s waterways. Collaging image and sound material, Fawundu is developing a new language, that she describes as follows:
“The ‘new language’ symbolizes life, a sense of freedom, living rather than just surviving within the complexities of systematic oppression. This is what the body does intuitively – the ‘body’ never truly dies, it transforms.”
Sunsum, in Spirit2020, HD Video, 09:53 min.
Courtesy: Die Künstlerin
Sunsum in Body2020
Archival pigment, synthetic hair, yarn, leather, acrylic medium on handmade mulberry paper - bound onto wooden frame
21.5 x 33 x 26 cm
Adama Delphine FawunduOxum at Eko, 2018Archival pigment on 100% cotton fiber paper23 x 34 1/2 in.Edition of 5 plus 1 artist's proof
Adama Delphine FawunduSodpet Illuminates, 2017Archival pigment on 100% cotton fiber paper16 x 21 in.Edition of 5 plus 1 artist's proof
Adama Delphine FawunduWater Mask, 2017Archival pigment on 100% cotton fiber paper27 x 41 1/4 in.Edition of 5 plus 1 artist's proof
Adama Delphine Fawunduthe cleanse, 2017HD video11:28 minEdition of 5 plus 1 artist's proof
Adama Delphine Fawundu is photographer and visual artist born in Brooklyn, NY to parents from Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea, West Africa. “Adama Delphine Fawundu’s work is about finding ways to connect with her kin – a group not merely confined to those who share a direct common ancestor but an expansive definition inclusive of the many who descend from the dispersed, the stolen, those for whom the violence, and opportunity wrought by the sea is at once a spectre and a fact of everyday life,” writes scholar Niama Safia Sandy.
With over fifteen years experience working as a photographer, Fawundu enhance her studio practice and completed her MFA in Visual Arts from Columbia University in 2018. She now uses photography, printmaking, video, sound and assemblage as an artistic language. Fawundu co-founded and independently published the sold-out book MFON: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora. The critically acclaimed book MFON led Fawundu on a book tour which included talks at The Tate Modern, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Harvard University amongst many other institutions. The book is in numerous libraries around the world including, The Victoria & Albert Museum, Columbia University, The International Center of Photography, and Harvard University.
In recognition of her artistic practice, Ms. Fawundu was nominated for and won the Rema Hort Mann Emerging Artist Award, named OkayAfrica’s 100 Women making an impact on Africa and its Diaspora and included in the Royal Photographic Society’s (UK) Hundred Heroines, in 2018. Ms. Fawundu’s awards also include, New York Foundation of the Arts Photography Fellow, Brooklyn Art Council Grant, Open Society Foundation Community Fellow, the Brooklyn Historical Society Community Initiative Grant, BRIC Workspace Artist-in-Residence and she is currently an artist-in-residence at the Center for Book Arts. Ms. Fawundu has exhibited internationally, with two solo shows in 2019 at the African American Museum in Philadelphia and Crush Curatorial gallery in Chelsea, NYC. Ms. Fawundu’s works have been reviewed in publications and media outlets such as Time Magazine, The New York Times, Surface Magazine, Leica Fotografie International, Vogue Online, The Washington Post, Dazed Digital, Arise TV, and the BBC World. Her works are published in anthologies such as: Africa Under the Prism: Contemporary African Photography from the Lagos Photo Festival by Joseph Gergel, ReSignifications: European Blackamoors, Africana Readings, Edited by Awam Ampka, and Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers 1840-Present by Dr. Deborah Willis.
Ms. Fawundu’s works can be found in the private and public collections such as the Brooklyn Museum of Art, The Brooklyn Historical Society, The Norton Museum of Art, Corridor Art Gallery, The David C. Driskell Center at the University of Maryland and The Museum of Contemporary Art at the University of São Paulo, Brazil.
Derek WalcottThe Sea is History
Where are your monuments, your battles, martyrs?
Where is your tribal memory? Sirs,
in that grey vault. The sea. The sea
has locked them up. The sea is History.
First, there was the heaving oil,
heavy as chaos;
then, like a light at the end of a tunnel,
the lantern of a caravel,
and that was Genesis.
Then there were the packed cries,
the shit, the moaning:
Bone soldered by coral to bone,
mantled by the benediction of the shark's shadow,
that was the Ark of the Covenant.
Then came from the plucked wires
of sunlight on the sea floor
the plangent harps of the Babylonian bondage,
as the white cowries clustered like manacles
on the drowned women,
and those were the ivory bracelets
of the Song of Solomon,
but the ocean kept turning blank pages
looking for History.
Then came the men with eyes heavy as anchors
who sank without tombs,
brigands who barbecued cattle,
leaving their charred ribs like palm leaves on the shore,
then the foaming, rabid maw
of the tidal wave swallowing Port Royal,
and that was Jonah,
but where is your Renaissance?
Sir, it is locked in them sea-sands
out there past the reef's moiling shelf,
where the men-o'-war floated down;
strop on these goggles, I'll guide you there myself.
It's all subtle and submarine,
through colonnades of coral,
past the gothic windows of sea-fans
to where the crusty grouper, onyx-eyed,
blinks, weighted by its jewels, like a bald queen;
and these groined caves with barnacles
pitted like stone
are our cathedrals,
and the furnace before the hurricanes:
Gomorrah. Bones ground by windmills
into marl and cornmeal,
and that was Lamentations—
that was just Lamentations,
it was not History;
then came, like scum on the river's drying lip,
the brown reeds of villages
mantling and congealing into towns,
and at evening, the midges' choirs,
and above them, the spires
lancing the side of God
as His son set, and that was the New Testament.
Then came the white sisters clapping
to the waves' progress,
and that was Emancipation—
jubilation, O jubilation—
as the sea's lace dries in the sun,
but that was not History,
that was only faith,
and then each rock broke into its own nation;
then came the synod of flies,
then came the secretarial heron,
then came the bullfrog bellowing for a vote,
fireflies with bright ideas
and bats like jetting ambassadors
and the mantis, like khaki police,
and the furred caterpillars of judges
examining each case closely,
and then in the dark ears of ferns
and in the salt chuckle of rocks
with their sea pools, there was the sound
like a rumour without any echo
of History, really beginning.
The Sea Is History from Selected Poems by Derek Walcott. Copyright © 2007 by Derek Walcott.