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Sacred Bling: African Diasporic Beadwork

10/21/23 Saturday Lecture with artist Demetri Broxton

Saturday, 10/21/23 10am PT

Presented In-Person *and* via Zoom

Koret Auditorium, de Young museum, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

In-Person Tickets: $5, sold at the door only \ free for TAC members

Virtual Tickets (Zoom): $5 Members of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and Students. $10 General Admission \ free for TAC members.

A recording will be available for two weeks following the talk.

Beads are valued in every culture of the world and this value stems from the symbolism of them being connected together by one string. The meaning of interconnectedness and interdependence have been very well understood by ancient and contemporary cultures all over the world. Demetri Broxton will consider how bead embellishment is employed in African and African diasporan cultures to demonstrate how objects and revered people are signified through beadwork. Broxton will also discuss how his artwork connects to these traditions and brings them forward to the present.

Demetri's work is currently on display in the deYoung's exhibition Crafting Radicality: Bay Area Artists from the Svane Gift. The works on display, exploring themes of reclamation, resilience, subversion, and family, are drawn from the 2022 Svane Family Foundation gift of 42 works by 30 local artists.

Demetri Broxton is a mixed media artist of Louisiana Creole and Filipino heritage who was born and raised in Oakland, CA. His textile sculptures reflect his connection to the sacred art of the Yoruba people of Nigeria, the beading traditions of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indians, and his love of hip hop and graffiti. Broxton holds a BFA with an emphasis in oil painting from UC Berkeley (2002) and an MA in Museum Studies from San Francisco State University (2010). His work has been exhibited internationally and most recently at SFMOMA Artist Gallery, UNTITLED Art Fair, Marin MOCA, and the Chinese Historical Society of America. His work is held in several private collections and the permanent collections of the Monterey Art Museum and de Young Museum. He is represented by Patricia Sweetow Gallery in Los Angeles, CA.

My textile sculptures reflect my connection to the sacred art of the Yoruba people of Nigeria, the beading traditions of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indians, and my love of hip hop and graffiti. My work is an ongoing investigation of cultural continuities from Africa to America and I am particularly interested in how these ancient cultural forms find their way into mainstream culture. Thus, elements of Nigerian royal regalia, sports equipment with significant ties to African American history, Southern voodoo/hoodoo traditions, and quotes from hip-hop artists are seamlessly blended with beaded patchwork employing techniques used by New Orleans Mardi Gras Indians. In both the Yoruba and New Orleans tradition, men are the creators of beaded regalia; however, this is not the case in mainstream American culture where beading and weaving techniques are often seen as women’s work. My mash up of bead weaving, which often quotes hyper-masculine phrases from hip-hop songs, creates an intentional tension and contrast between delicate and powerful, beautiful and dark, masculine and feminine. The use of cowrie shells adds an additional layer of complexity to the underlying ideas in my work. Cowrie shell sculptures in the Yoruba tradition are called Ilé Ori or House of the Head Shrines. Ilé Ori are shrines to a person’s spiritual essence; protected by a shield of cowrie shells. During the height of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, human beings were purchased with cowrie shells brought by Portuguese slave ships. In some cases, owning an Ilé Ori could protect a wealthy Yoruba person from being sold into slavery. This juxtaposition of beauty, pain, power, and influence can be seen throughout my work; as the shells represent the violence and wealth of the slave trading economy – a heritage that continues in sports and hip-hop lyrics.


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