In This Issue:

Frederick Douglass

Imagined Memories

Black Love in Princeton

Poem

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Imagined Memories

By Adam Welch

 

Onome Olotu was the Arts Council of Princeton’s Spring 2023 Anne Reeves Artist-in-Residence. This residency is made possible with the support of Timothy M Andrews.

 

BIO

 

Onome Daniella Olotu was born in 1993 in Lagos, Nigeria. She studied art at the University of Benin, majoring in painting. After graduation, she worked as a curatorial assistant at the National Gallery of Art, Abuja, and later as an art teacher before taking on full time studio practice at the Universal Studios of Art, Lagos in 2018. Working predominantly in charcoal and acrylics, her work engages personal family and institutional archives to respond to social and political events. Olotu’s work has been exhibited across Nigeria and recently at the exhibition Sankofa: African Routes, Canadian Roots at the Museum of Anthropology, The University of British Colombia, Vancouver, Canada. She currently lives and works between Lagos and Princeton.

 

Photo by Emezie Asogwa

 

STATEMENT

 

“Having lived in Princeton for two years now, I have wondered why there are very few Black families in the area. I was surprised to learn that there used to be more Black families in Princeton than we have now, and I wonder what it would be like to live here at that time. Continuing with the postcard series, I will experiment with archival and historical images of Princeton and reimagine myself in this Black community of yesteryear. This is the experience I invite the Princeton community to share with me through co-creation.

 

The opportunity to co-create with a community like Princeton during studio visits and presentations in this program could not have come at a better time in my art career. Through interviews with the remaining Black community and archival images of Princeton, I hope to project a memory of acceptance at a time when it seems impossible with a fast-disappearing Black community.

 

By joining me in this engagement with memory in the form of postcards from the past, I hope the community will benefit with me on this healing journey. I also intend to push the limits of my current media of acrylics on canvas to include printmaking using the printmaking facility available in the Arts Council studios to see what a combination of printmaking and acrylic painting, texts and images, and personal and institutional archives will produce in a new body of work. From my experience as an art teacher, public engagement, and curatorial volunteering, I believe the outcome of my proposed project will be of mutual benefit to the Princeton Community and my artistic practice.”

 

With Paul Robeson

Mixed Media on Canvas

36 inches x 48 inches

2023

 

 

ADAM WELCH AND ONOME OLOTU IN CONVERSATION

 

What age did you begin making art?

I remember throwing a tantrum as a 7 year old kid, because I couldn’t get the resemblance of a portrait my Dad was working on. For him, it seemed too easy. We settle for 7 years old.

 

What age where you when you became seriously interested in art?

I was 15 years In senior high and while choosing additional subjects for my science class, I insisted on having Fine Arts in place of Agricultural Science.

 

What attracted you to the Witherspoon-Jackson Neighborhood?

While still deciding on what subjects to include and work with during my residency at the Arts Council of Princeton, I was introduced to a brief history of Witherspoon-Jackson community by Maria Evans, who saw in my portfolio that I was curious about history and memory, and she was right. The community had deeply rooted histories and memories coursing through every interview I had with its residents and through each photograph and document I found at the Historical Society of Princeton.

 

On the steps of Blair Hall, 1967

Mixed media on Heavy duty paper

40 inches x 56 inches

2023

 

Why do you paint yourself and or your husband into the paintings?

My initial project was to reimagine what life would have looked like if I lived in Princeton 50 years ago. While working primarily with the idea of storytelling, I chose to insert myself into the lives of the residents I interviewed, through their photos and the photos I got from the Historical Society of Princeton. This was to document my time living in Princeton with my husband (who is a student), which I intended to send back to my family in Nigeria as postcards.

 

Why did you chose old photos to manipulate?

My choice was specific because of the weight of memories, history, and stories that each photograph carried. I was curious to know what happened in that specific moment in time, and I had the artistic license to recreate it.

 

What did you learn about the Witherspoon-Jackson Neighborhood?

I learned they had Love. It was evident in how the kids were raised by every parent, irrespective of whose kids they were. The community thrived during difficult times, periods when they were limited from receiving education, getting jobs, going to certain places, getting certain amenities because of the color of their skin but this community THRIVED. They created safe spaces and their own ecosystem to survive.

 

Who did you interview about the neighborhood?

I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Shirley Satterfield through the help of Maria Evans and the Staff at ACP.  I also met interviewed Mr. John Broadway, Mr. Leighton Newlin and Loren Johnson during a Neighborhood meeting.

 

The Newlin Brothers and Iheanyi

Acrylic on Canvas

36 inches x 48 inches

2023

Shirley’s Wedding Day

Mixed media on Canvas

60 inches x 48 inches

2023

 

What is the most interesting thing you learned about the neighborhood?

Their resilience and homeliness. I read the book ‘I Hear My People Singing’ by Kathryn Watterson and my interviews with the residents confirmed this for me. A neighborhood, consisting of men, women and children who decided they wanted to remain relevant and worked hard towards achieving that main objective.

 

I had the opportunity to attend one of their Neighborhood meetings and it felt like a family gathering of fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters because I was greeted with such great warmth.

 

Can you tell us specifically about the painting with the Broadways and the Waxwood building? Did you know that is the one the town purchased?

After I interviewed Mr. John Broadway, Florence Broadway sent some photos to me. I chose that particular photo because of the love that radiated from that photo. The Waxwood building was formerly the Witherspoon School for Colored Children and Mr. Broadway attended that school as a young child.

 

I brought these two together by creating the story of the Broadways, visiting John’s childhood school for their wedding anniversary and meeting another young couple (myself and my husband) on the same tour. The date on the postmark is their wedding anniversary date, which personalizes the work further towards the Broadways. This way, I have fused three separate memories into one.

 

With John and Florence Broadway

Mixed media on Canvas

36 inches x 48 inches

2023

 

What is next?

I want to make my practice more process and material oriented. I am interested in finding and researching new archives and exploring what a combination of printmaking, painting and photography would do for my practice.

 

onomeolotu.com

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Community Calendar

WJHCS Trustees Recent Accomplishments and Honors:

 

Honoree: Leighton Newlin

Date: January 5, 2022

Elected: Princeton Councilmember

 

Honoree: Rev. Gregory Smith

Award: Ordination and Installation as Pastor

Date: November 20, 2021

Awarded By: Second Calvary Baptist Church, Hopewell, NJ

 

 

Honoree: Shirley Satterfield

Award: Community Engagement Award

Date: November 17, 2021

Awarded By: Princeton University and Pace Center for Civic Engagement

 

Honoree: Shirley A. Satterfield

Award: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award

Date: January 16, 2021

Awarded By: New Jersey Education Association (NJEA)

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