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Enslaved Africans’ Rain Garden Exhibit On View at Sarah Lawrence College

Artist Vinnie Bagwell
Artist Vinnie Bagwell Photo Credit: Contributed
Five bronze sculptures are on display in the college's Esther Raushenbush Library through May, including a sculpture depicting a lithe woman balancing a bucket on her head and carrying fish (I’Satta).
Five bronze sculptures are on display in the college's Esther Raushenbush Library through May, including a sculpture depicting a lithe woman balancing a bucket on her head and carrying fish (I’Satta). Photo Credit: Contributed

EASTCHESTER, N.Y. --  Sarah Lawrence College will present “Artists Talk,” a program in conjunction with an exhibit of artist Vinnie Bagwell’s Enslaved Africans Rain Garden project, Thursday in the Reisinger Auditorium on campus in Bronxville.

Bagwell and spoken word artist Ty Gray-EL will speak about the project that honors the enslaved Africans who resided at the historic Philipse Manor Hall in downtown Yonkers, six of whom were the first to be manumitted by law in the United States, 79 years before the Emancipation Proclamation, according to a release from Sarah Lawrence.

On display in the college’s Esther Raushenbush Library through May are five bronze sculptures depicting a lithe woman balancing a bucket on her head and carrying fish (I’Satta), an elder woman pausing to rest on a hoe and pray (Bibi), a somber boatman (Themba), and two companion children (Sola and Olumide).

These sculptures are smaller models of the life-sized sculptures that will ultimately form a permanent installation in a rain garden setting on the banks of the Hudson River. The first of the life-sized sculptures, I’Satta, will be unveiled and displayed at Sarah Lawrence in the near future.

Accompanying the sculptures in the exhibit are mounted texts providing the viewer with an historical context of slavery in New York State. The exhibit encourages visitors to wonder about enslaved Africans, their origins and families, their languages, daily routines, religious beliefs, music and thoughts, the release said.

“Although Africans were a vital part of American society from the earliest colonial times, there are few landmarks that recognize their presence in the United States,” said Bagwell. “Africans helped to build our cities, but no representational statues were built in their honor."

"No streets, squares, buildings or rivers have names with origins in their cultures,” she added. “That is the inspiration for this project to be built in a public space and which will invigorate the community, generate civic dialogue, and support environmental policy.”

The program will be from 6 - 8 p.m. For further information, visit Sarah Lawrence's website.

Reisinger Auditorium is at 1 Mead Way, Bronxville.

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