The Gourdmaster visits FAMU

Sam x painting his home featuring the Freedom Bird.
Photo credit: Sam X website 

“Some people are taught by universities, others are taught by the universe. I’m blessed to be taught by the universe,” Sam X said as he presented at the 10th Annual Spring Literary Forum.

On Feb. 22 Florida A&M University’s Department of English and Modern Languages hosted their annual Spring Literary Forum.

Dr. Natalie R. King-Pedroso, who served as the committee chair for the forum, said the forum initially started as a service project for students by students.

The literacy forum has grown to become a platform for local and national integral figures in literature to address different matters for students to analyze in classroom discussion.

“Sam X was one of the few selected to participate in this event because of his development of culture through his art work and community garden,” Pedroso said. “The presentation would help students understand elements of literature inside the classroom through cultural lenses, even though they haven’t experienced these cultural impacts in person.”

During the early session of the forum, a graduate student of the English department introduced to the audience a speaker in a vibrant blue suit and orange tie with dreads down his back. This man was Sam X, who is also known as “The Gourdmaster” in the art community.

The Georgia native is a self-taught artist whose main artistic culture is Afro-Southern through mediums of wood carvings and paintings. He earned his name “The Gourdmaster” from the hard-shelled gourd fruit that he uses for most of his carvings of African figurines.

Sam X began his presentation by telling a story of his childhood education and how he found his niche while encountering racism in an integrated school system. A topic of Egypt and Africa in the classroom led to a debate between Sam X and his teacher on the cultural integrity of Black people. Since then he made it his lifelong mission to bring meaning to the legacy of Africa.

Wood carving and ground artwork of Sam X.
Photo credit: Sam X website 

As a storyteller and teacher, Sam X works to empower youth inspiring them to create their own world with color and imagination regardless of where they are from.

“It is not where you are from, it is what you are doing, where you are,” Sam X said.

He began this process by transforming his home as a tiny sculpture, that ultimately brings people together to explore the creative arts and culture as a form of expression.

He started this renowned artistic journey by buying a home in one of the richest white neighborhoods in Georgia, that happened to be across the street from the richest woman. To continue he painted the house pink so it could detract attention from what he was really about to accomplish.

Painting the house in bright colors and using different African drawings, Sam X made his permanent home into a cultural jewel of the South. He did so with the help of neighbors who were interested to help expand the project pertaining to sponsorship and woodwork.

“It was cool, I liked the house and how it was turned into a museum for the community and I can’t wait to visit.” Jaquez Dumas said, who attended the forum.

In February 2015, his sense of community inspired him to become a co-founder of the non-profit organization called Southern Sky: Center for the Diverse Arts and Culture Inc., to celebrate the unique culture and preserve stories and tradition.

Through this venture, he and his wife Eda Garcia partnered with Fort Valley State University to build the Village Community Garden for youth and elder community participation to increase.

Sam X has worked on “Bridging Art and Agriculture” through a community garden in Sylvester, Georgia. According to WALB News 10, Sam X said, "The purpose of the garden is to bring the people together. To give people the opportunity to learn how to grow."

Currently, FAMU’s English and Modern Languages Department is planning a trip to Sylvester for students who attended this portion of the forum and would like to experience the artistic movement in person.