SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – African art was on full display all across the Coastal Empire this weekend.
From the two-day African art exhibit at the Tybee Guard House to the special Juneteenth celebration at the Savannah African art Museum. It was a weekend all about celebrating the freedom of African Americans, honoring their ancestors, and paying homage to June 19th, 1865 when over 250,000 enslaved people were freed in Galveston, TX, nearly two years following the signing of the emancipation proclamation.
“Many, many years before 1865, these people had been taken from places where they actually had a culture. They had homes, they had religion, they had customs, they had food that they cooked, they grew crops. They were wealthy, they had gold, they had silver. They weren’t just people who were sitting around doing nothing until someone stole them and put them on the ship,” said Gwendolyn Glover, Director of the African art exhibit on Tybee.
The exhibit, titled ‘Things Left Behind,’ provided a deeper look at history through the private collection of Belinda McClain and artwork by Assistant Curator Rafaela Johnson.
Glover believes that bringing the past to life in the most interactive way possible is the best way to teach what happened nearly a century and a half ago. That’s why the Tybee African art exhibit featured a slideshow, art inspired from early-African culture and informational panels detailing various aspects of history.
“We feel that education is a very good tool for that. We don’t want to make anybody feel terrible or feel angry or anything like that, our purpose is simply to educate,” added Glover. “All of it is history and history has to be respected. People don’t necessarily feel like they’re being seen and heard when you don’t understand how they got to be where they are. If you don’t understand who they are.”
Lauri Lyons, founder of the Rest with Honor Initiative, feels as though the making of Juneteenth being a federal holiday just three days ago couldn’t have come at a better time.
“It’s a perfect timing for people to really respect and honor the emancipation of black people in America, the contributions they made to this country, the culture and the economy,” said Lyons. “My message regarding Juneteenth is for people to celebrate our history, talk about our history, participate in civic engagement. Let’s be inclusive, let’s be factual, let’s be united, that’s what Juneteenth is about. The emancipation of all people, not just legal emancipation but mental emancipation as well.”