Bayard Rustin, Nok and Sokoto.

Collecting African Tribal Art, through the inherent nature of its complexity was always going to lead me to a rabbit hole or two. On the Richter scale my rabbit holes are ranked from a sojourn through wikipedia to a midnight conference with my pals Malibu and Piney… and this one turned into a real doozy.


Bayard Rustin – LIFE magazine cover.

Connecting the dots was simple enough,

  • The main character, Bayard Rustin put together what is clearly a special collection of African Terracotta, primarily Nok, and Sokoto. Rustin received a posthumous award of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013 for his work in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.[1]
  • The collection ultimately found a home at Yale University  via sale to Joel and SusAnna Grae of New Haven, CT.

Bayard Rustin is buried in the Civil Rights movement lore. The first I heard of him was when I viewed the Yale University video (link above). While he led a very interesting political life his commitment to nonviolence, and the civil rights cause is an amazing testament to the strength of human resilience.

One of my favorite parts of the video showed SusAnna Grae commenting –“the very judgmental Sokoto would look at you and say ‘well, what did you do today’…”.


Sokoto Bust – (Source: The Birth of Art in Black Africa, pg. 105)

Invariably these collections end up in private hands. The fact that this collection is now available to the public for free viewing, and research is a good thing. My preference would have been to view the collection at a Historically Black College or University (insert Howard University plug here), but most of these institutions have neither the depth of networks nor finances to put this effort together.





Book Burnings, Power, Threats.

I  heard from an acquaintance, of a friend, of a cousin, who has been rumored to be familiar with the 9/11/10 book burning controversy, that an abhorrent and conniving plan was afoot.  It seems that in a closed session, with his most trusted advisors, the Rev. Terry Jones and followers, will abort all future attempts at book burning and instead …… delete, and expunge multiple copies of downloaded apps of the Koran from their smartphones… while delivering sermons filled with fiery rhetoric. This workaround although effective, should mightily reduce the chances of a Rushdie like “fatwa” and materially extend the life of the said Rev. I however, along with the rest of the Free World remain outraged and fully expect the Office of the Pope, the President, Angelina, General Patreus, Mickey Mouse, and the few non-rioting Afgans, Pakistanis, and Iranians to renew their efforts to stamp out this obscene case of religious bigotry.

In all seriousness however, by virtue of the First Amendment, the Rev. is within his right to burn the Koran provided there is no threat of violence associated with the act. The anniversary of a very sad day in American history thus far has run as a footnote to this sideshow.

It seems odd that followers of the Bible and the Koran have so much in common, (arguably worship the same God), and yet continually find ways to create hatred, and distrust.

But History repeats itself for there have been many instances of book burnings, and the destruction of religious artefacts.

In 1242, The French crown burned all Talmud copies in Paris, about 12,000, after the book was “charged” and “found guilty” in the Paris trial sometimes called “the Paris debate”. This burnings of Hebrew books were initiated by Pope Gregory IX, who persuaded French King Louis IX to undertake it. Since the Church and Christian states viewed the Talmud as a book hateful and insulting toward Christ and gentiles, subsequent popes were also known to organize public burnings of Jewish books. The most well known of them were Innocent IV (1243–1254), Clement IV (1256–1268), John XXII (1316–1334), Paul IV (1555–1559), Pius V (1566–1572) and Clement VIII (1592–1605).[1]

In the English Reformation, circa 1526, Cardinal Wolsey presided at a massive burning of Lutheran books.[2]

Fang - Bieri ; Balance of Opposites

In the 1930s in West Africa, “the project to discourage the use of bieri led to a period of iconoclasm, when vast numbers of sculptures were ritually confiscated and destroyed. In an article sponsored by the Gabonese government, Joachim Minsta explains how, in the Estuary region, French Catholic missionaries from the order of Spiritans, also known as Holy Ghost Fathers, would ceremonially set the sculptures out to sea (Mints 1960). Oral histories and fictionalized accounts tell of widespread raids on homes when missionaries searched for bieri that they would then stockpile and burn.”[3]

The works of some Jewish authors and other so-called “degenerate” books were burnt by the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s. Richard Euringer, director of the libraries in Essen, identified 18,000 works deemed not to correspond with Nazi ideology, which were publicly burned.[4]

On the 23rd March 1984 hundreds of copies of the New Testament were ceremonially burnt by Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem. Professor Israel Shahak of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem wrote in his 1994 book Jewish History, Jewish Religion “Or one can quote the precept according to which Jews are instructed (from the Talmud) to burn, publicly if possible, any copy of the New Testament that comes into their hands. (This is not only still in force but actually practiced today;)5

The 1988 publication of the novel The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie, provoked angry demonstrations and riots around the world by followers of political Islam, some of whom considered it blasphemous. In the United Kingdom, book burnings were staged in the cities of Bolton and Bradford.

It would seem that power corrupts and future censorship is a given in some form or fashion – the attempt by Rev. Jones has shown that acts of outrageous mischief can be manipulated for self-promotion, and unbelievable exposure, but at least the solidarity against his cause was an encouraging step in the right direction.




Breakfast with MLK, Freud, and Simon

While having breakfast yesterday I was simmering more than my tepid caramel latte. The peripheral irony of Little Syria in relation to the controversy surrounding the WTC mosque had percolated into the propinquity of the indignity that lower Manhattan was developed on the fill of an African slave burial ground. [1][2] This coupled with the ambush tactics employed by  Glen Beck whilst “reclaiming” the civil rights movement, on the anniversary of the “I have a Dream” speech, and the delinquency of African American leadership in allowing tradition to supercede professionalism, meant  that indigestion was already a given.

DRC, Nkisi - Protection against "Bad Luck"

But in the middle of the BEC on the Pannini thingy a funny thing happened. My wife, Michelle encouraged me to try a little grape jelly with my concoction. In my simple way I tried to explain that I was not going to risk what was actually a decent sandwich, and that I was quite prepared to sacrifice theoretical perfection for guaranteed adequacy. This essentially is the guts of the decision-making strategy defined by Herbert Simon’s Satisficing (1956[3]) – meeting criteria for adequacy, rather than identifying an optimal solution.

As if it wasn’t crowded enough, Freud joined the sit-in, postulating that his theories of hysteria, and repressed emotions were a good fit for an African American community subjected to years of images of inferiority and practical experiences of inequality.

Fang - Bieri ; Balance of Opposites

Between Simon, Freud, Michelle, Beck, Sharpton, and Palin  I was only too happy to retreat to my Fortress of Solitude. In my mind I have arrived at a plausible explanation for the BURGEONING APATHY of large sections of the African American community, but the irony is that even the bland acceptance of such would itself be another example of satisficing.





%d bloggers like this: