From Africa to Weeksville
“From Africa To Weeksville: The Eric Edwards Collection”
opens at Weeksville Heritage Center on July 12
Exhibition displays 61 artifacts from one of the largest African art
collections in the United States
Please join us for an opening reception on Thursday, July 12 from 7-9pm at 158 Buffalo Avenue (between Bergen Street & St. Marks Avenue) in Crown Heights, Brooklyn
July 3, 2018–Weeksville Heritage Center, the arts and cultural institution that sits on the site of the remaining vestiges of the second largest free African-American community of pre-Civil War America, is pleased to present “From Africa To Weeksville: The Eric Edwards Collection,” an exhibition of rare artifacts on loan from The Cultural Museum of African Art, The Eric Edwards Collection, one of the largest collections of African art in the United States amassed by an African American. The exhibition, which runs from July 12 through September 28, highlights the history and background on artifacts from 17 countries on the African continent and, through its narrative and programmatic extensions, draws explicit connections between the cultural practices of those countries and the people, both free and formerly enslaved, who built the community of historic Weeksville. “From Africa To Weeksville: The Eric Edwards Collection” is made possible in part by the support from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and its Cultural Immigrant Initiative.
“I am thrilled to bring a portion of my collection to such an important place of black history and meaning as Weeksville,” says Edwards, a retired AT&T engineer. “In many ways the collection encapsulates our experience and exhibits the qualities and untold skills that we brought to this country, all of which helped build the United States into the great country it is.”
Some of the artifacts on exhibit include:
- A 4,000 year old royal woman granite bust from the Nubian empire;
- Ancient craftsmen’s tools utilized to create the art;
- Some of the finest of Africa’s old metal works and castings;
- A bronze flute player illustrating the “Lost-Wax” method of casting created in Africa;
- Rare hand-woven cloths & garments exhibiting skills brought from Africa;
- Shrine pieces from Gabon, the Congo, and South Africa;
- African royalty headdresses;
- Important drums of the Baga of Guinea, and the Yangere of the Congo;
- Artifacts used in initiation ceremonies for young girls and boys in transition to adulthood;
- A Terracotta Maternity from the Djenne Empire of Mali;
- A royal bull glass bead helmet of the Bamileke of the Cameroon; and
- Rare African and U.S. slave chains that document the “Middle Passage and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade”.
“We’re honored to be in partnership with Eric for this exhibition and to be able to show a portion of his impressive collection at Weeksville,” says Rob Fields, Weeksville Heritage Center’s President and Executive Director. “We are constantly thinking about how to connect past to present in ways that are relevant and resonant for our community. Given the current tenor of the times, it’s hard to imagine few things more powerful and reaffirming than a black cultural institution hosting and highlighting African art that’s been collected and curated by someone in our community.”
The Eric Edwards Collection is the result of over 48 years of Edwards’ work as a private collector. He has amassed one of the most important private collections of African art in the world. Over 2,500 artifacts reside alongside Mr. Edwards in his Brooklyn home, which has become a museum. The collection represents all 54 countries of Africa and spans over 4000 years of history. In the 1970s Eric Edwards, a Brooklyn native, acquired his first piece of African art– a statue of a Bambara maternity female from Mali for $300. With this purchase his love for African Art was born, and soon escalated into an obsession for acquiring one-of-a-kind African artifacts. “I went to auctions, galleries, private acquisition sales, as well as travelling extensively around the world. I started purchasing pieces when they were truly affordable and started building my collection,” he said in an interview. Edwards credits his father James, who came to America from Barbados at 17, with teaching him about Africa’s contributions to mankind. Those lessons empowered him with a self-respect and dignity that gave him a sense of real equality.
About Weeksville Heritage Center
Weeksville Heritage Center is a multidisciplinary museum dedicated to preserving the history of the 19th century African American community of Weeksville, Brooklyn – one of America’s many free black communities, and the second largest of its kind in pre-Civil War America.
Weeksville’s mission is to document, preserve and interpret the history of free African American communities in Weeksville, Brooklyn and beyond and to create and inspire innovative, contemporary uses of African American history through education, the arts, and civic engagement. Using a contemporary lens, we activate this unique history through the presentation of innovative, vanguard and experimental programs.