By John Owoo
(In Accra – Ghana)
US based Ghanaian artist Tijay Mohammed recently participated in a Black Lives Matter project that ended with a gigantic mural, which stretched across three city blocks in Manhattan – New York (USA).
Conceived by the Manhattan Borough and Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, the 600 feet mural was designed by artists Sophia Dawson, Patrice Payne and Tijay Mohammed, who is currently participating in the Materials For The Arts Artist-in-Residence programme in New York.
Mohammed employed the use of Ghanaian Adinkra symbols and Kente cloth motifs on the word BLACK while Dawson incorporated images of mothers she has met over the years on the word LIVES alongside those of Payne, who identified what her ancestors have experienced in her design of the word MATTER.
Applied directly to the street, the mural harmoniously blended with the surroundings while powerfully delivering a message that seeks to bring justice, healing and freedom to black people in America, Europe and elsewhere thereby promoting a sense of identity, belonging and openness.
Commenting on the mural, Justin Garrett Moore, Executive Director of the Public Design Commission said the mural at New York’s Civic Center is strong and beautiful and carries a very important message to mankind while praising the collaboration by activists, artists and designers in the creation of the mural.
Department of Transport (DOT) Chief Operations Officer Margaret Forgione added that the DOT is honored to play a role in utilizing public space for artistic expression by communicating such a powerful message at an iconic location in the Civic Center. She expressed profound thanks to architects and artists among others for bringing these Black Lives Matter murals to the streets.
Mohammed has exhibited his works locally and internationally including features at the Longwood Art Gallery, Katonah Museum of Art, Hudson River Museum, Materials for the Arts (all in New York), Art League (Huston – USA), Green Drake Art Gallery (Pennsylvania – USA) and the National Museum in the Ghanaian capital Accra.
He has equally organized workshops and community-based projects with numerous organizations including Studio Museum Harlem, Wallach Art Gallery, Brooklyn Museum, Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling (all in New York), University of Ghana and Pinto Road Community Centre (Trinidad / Tobago).
In addition, he has received numerous accolades and residencies from The Laundromat Project, Children’s Museum of Manhattan, Hudson River Museum (all in New York), Ravel d’Art (Cote d’Ivoire), Harmattan Workshop (Nigeria), Global Crit Clinic and Asiko Artist Residency (Ghana).
Since March 2020, Mohammed has been an Artist-in-Residence at Materials for the Arts while participating in virtual public programming and art making that engages the ongoing protest movement, including being tapped to help design the Black Lives Matter mural.
Organizers of the mural project include Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, Department of Transportation, WXY Studio, TATS CRU, Department of Cultural Affairs-Percent for Art, Black Lives Matter of Greater New York and Thrive Collective among others.
Supporters of the mural include Architecture Research Office, BBB, BJH Associate, Caples Jefferson, COOKFOX, Elizabeth Kennedy Landscape Architect, Fred Clarke, Fogarty Finger, FRONT Inc, FXCollaborative, G TECTS, Ken Smith Workshop, LERA Engineering, LTL, MdeAS Architects, ODA, Paula Scher and Rafael Pelli.
Others are Richard Gonzalez Architects, Rodney Leon Architects, Rogers Partners, Sara Lopergolo, SCAPE Studio, SHoP Architects, Silman Associates, Snøhetta, Susan T. Rodriguez Architecture Design, Victor Body-Lawson Associates and WXY Architecture + Urban Design with special thanks to Jose Torres.
Pictures – Joe Russo