Families enjoy taste of cultures

BMA kicks off Black History Month with tributes to Caribbean traditions and artists

February 05, 2007|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,Sun Reporter

Families at the Baltimore Museum of Art yesterday escaped a chilly Charm City and headed for the tropical terrain of Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti and Cuba.

They trekked the African wilderness, crafting paper giraffes and elephants, alligators and rhinoceroses along the way.

Still others roamed the museum's halls and sampled the works of African-American and African artists.

The Family Day event kicked off the museum's annual Black History Month tribute to African traditions and African-American artists.

Instead of falling back on the African dance performances of years past, museum officials decided to spotlight Caribbean culture this year, inviting a local music education group called Goombay to showcase the black community's "great diversity," said Kateri Harried, the museum's public program manager.

"We're not just focusing on it for Black History Month," Harried said, referring to black artists' work. "We want to make sure any time you come to the museum, you will find a variety of works by African-Americans."

Yesterday, budding artists designed their own works using paper to make African-inspired animals.

Zyionna McKinstry, 10, stuck a final strip of red tape to the base of her giraffe's mane.

"Nicely done," said Cheryl Hamilton, the girl's Big Sister mentor.

Hamilton held the animal's body while Zyionna cut the last pieces of paper. Finally, the girl taped on the giraffe's head.

"Nice," Hamilton said. "You happy?"

Zyionna nodded.

Later, the two surveyed exhibits, eventually climbing the stairs to see the mixed-media work of Ethiopian artist Theo Eshetu.

"We thought it'd be a neat way to celebrate together," said Hamilton, who met Zyionna through Big Brothers Big Sisters, a national youth mentoring organization.

For the Howard family of Catonsville, the museum's black-history tribute is an annual tradition. Keith Howard said he still has some of his son Mark's crafts, including a drum. Now 15, Mark returned to add an alligator to his unofficial portfolio. Sisters Jakeira, 12, and Jamilah, 8, helped.

Mark said the day's activities gave them the opportunity to "be sort of joyous about being of African descent."

Stacey Webb, who traveled to the museum from Silver Spring, shared a similar sentiment.

"It's important for our African children to get a broader perspective on our culture," said Webb, as she sat down for Goombay's performance of calypso and reggae, among other Caribbean music genres.

"This event celebrates just a portion of who we are as a people," Webb said. Children "should be exposed to the positive aspects of our culture."

arin.gencer@baltsun.com

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