ASANTE brings African life to Centre Gallery
Tanzania came to USF’s Centre Gallery last week through the African-inspired art exhibit, “ASANTE.”
Artists Barbara Stubbs and Kendra Frorup said the works are a response to the cultural and artistic aspects of African life that they experienced firsthand.
The two artists spent two weeks living and creating art in Africa. “ASANTE,” a Swahili word for “thank you,” is made up of photographs, multimedia pieces, prints and sculptures that reflect their experiences.
Stubbs and Frorup traveled to Arusha, Tanzania, to hand-make paper from natural resources. They used natural fibers and traditional methods, such as pounding mulberry and banana leaves.
Frorup, a professor at the University of Tampa, also spent time in Johannesburg, South Africa. She said she has been intrigued by handmade paper since her time at Syracuse University, where she graduated in 1996, and a workshop she attended in England a few summers ago.
The two spent their time in junkyards, markets, the middle of town and the Ngorongoro Crater observing animals. Upon returning to the U.S., the artists spent six months reflecting on the inspiration they found in Tanzania.
“The idea of having the show was to see what came out,” Stubbs said. “There was always a huge impact of color and people and sensations.”
“ASANTE” features several of Stubbs’ mono prints, which are made by putting ink on a plate and placing an object, such as a leaf, in the ink. Then, paper that has been handmade from the cotton of recycled clothing is placed on top of the plate and put through a press a single time.
Frorup said her photographs and multimedia pieces were influenced by the vivid colors, recycled materials and jewelry found in Tanzania, and allowed her to experiment with a different color palette than she has used in her previous work.
“I was very open and receptive to what I saw, and I had no expectations,” Frorup said. “I am not a colorist by any means, but now I’m not afraid to use color.”
Frorup said she was intrigued by the beads and craftsmanship of Tanzanian jewelry. She incorporated some of the actual jewelry and other recycled Tanzanian objects into her colorful multimedia pieces.
“I always use discarded and recycled materials,” Frorup said. “In Tanzania, everything is recycled out of necessity.”
Ali DeGray, a former student of Frorup who studies sculpture at the University of Tampa, attended the Friday reception for “ASANTE.” DeGray, an art history major who graduated in December, also recently took a trip to Africa.
“She does really interesting things with metal,” DeGray said. “It is cool to see her do something with metal and color together. It captures Africa perfectly and it’s beautiful to get to see it.”
The artists said the ultimate goal of “ASANTE” is to evoke the way of life and culture of Africa. To accomplish this, they used primarily African materials and traditional artistic methods. Stubbs said they did not take much on the trip, and they used what was around them.
“The process was very elemental and not high-tech at all,” Stubbs said. “We beat the fibers the way it’s been done for thousands of years. We responded very directly with people and elements.”
Ville Mehtonen, a senior majoring in fine arts who also attended the reception, said he liked the effective use of color and materials.
“I’m not too familiar with African culture, so this is giving me a splice of daily life in Africa – all of the sights and sounds,” he said. “I like seeing how colors apply in printing.”
According to the artists, the time they spent in Tanzania allowed them to appreciate cultural differences and African aesthetics. Frorup said she will apply the artistic techniques she picked up to her future work.
“Recycling materials is going to be very visible in my upcoming work,” she said.
Stubbs said the experience had a profound impact on her as well.
“It was all very experiential from what we were living through right then,” Stubbs said. “The experience, what we saw and the interactions with people took six months to even absorb. We saw it all.”
ASANTE is on display through Friday. The Centre Gallery is located in Marshall Student Center Room 2700 and is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information on the gallery and upcoming exhibitions, visit ctr.usf.edu/gallery.