Artwork captures life

Against the backdrop of a rippling shoreline in Tanji, Gambia, 30 men and women climb out of rowboats and wade in the low tide. One of the passengers, a solemn faced woman, balances a tub brimming with fresh fish on her head.

This is one of the many images featured in the “A Day in the Life of Africa” exhibit.

On Feb. 28, 2002, 100 photojournalists were commissioned by Pfizer Inc. to capture landscapes and the daily lives of laborers in 53 African countries. From the pyramids of Mero in Sudan to the desolate plains of Dead Vlei, Namibia – where withered trees cast crooked shadows across cracked gravel – the photographers covered a broad spectrum of continental features.

Now, almost two years later, the continent is coming to the Hill.

Six students from the business administration program worked since last September to bring one of the three traveling exhibits to FAMU’s campus.

Kherri Davis, a business administration student, said she worked on the project for two reasons.

“I wanted to bring positive exposure to FAMU at this critical time,” said the 24-year-old from San Antonio. “I also wanted to showcase the richness and diversity of the various cultures of Africa.”

A reception was held Wednesday in the Florida Room of the Doubletree Hotel to promote the exhibit and recognize the people instrumental in making it happen.

Dave Nickles, assistant director of government relations for Pfizer, is involved with the project on numerous levels, but his main goal is to enlighten the American society.

“So many people don’t understand what Africa is about.”

Nickles also has a personal connection to the project.

“There’s this picture of a boy splashing water in his face to help treat trachoma or Nile River blindness,” he said. “I had an uncle who was blind, so it’s an issue I understand.”

Mayor John Marks recognized “A Day in the Life of Africa” as a different kind of treatment. He said the exhibit is a stepping stone to the much-needed emphasis of art and culture in the community. He also said it is critical that art be included in school curricula.

“There’s a study that showed when there’s art in schools performance increases,” Marks said. “It’s unfortunate that when we start cutting programs – art and culture are the first to go.”

Marks also said mathematical concepts embedded in some artistic forms are an example of unexplored educational benefits.

“Art teaches discipline,” he said. “And it also takes children off of the streets.”

Marks said the cultural resource commission is in the process of implementing projects relating to art, but he knows it will take time.

President Fred Gainous said the exhibit would help strengthen the relationship between FAMU and Pfizer. The exhibit represents their joint objective to enhance life.

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