NYU Black Renaissance Noire NYU Black Renaissance Noire V. 16.1 - Page 137

© PHOTOGRAPH BY BAKARY ALI MBAYE, 2010, COURTESY THE ARTIST. , ©2014 MELVIN EDWARDS / ARTIST S RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK k Point of Memory, 2005 Steel Comptoirs des Fleuve Square, Saint-Louis, Senegal The high school I went to was named after her. At nine years old she was taken into slavery and brought to the Americas. She became fluent as a poet and very recognized. So, I and my poet wife came to Senegal, where Wheatley is from. It is a reciprocal relationship, because by now we come and go. In coming and going, these columns of memory, points of memory, are meant to do that.10 A second “Point of Memory” was displayed in Santiago de Cuba, in November 2013, in Parque de la Beneficiencia, a park located on one of the highest points in the city. The sculpture, which is nearly eighteen feet tall, was erected close to a colonial building where the first slaves were brought at the beginning of the Sixteenth Century. “Point of Memory” dominates the city and faces the setting sun over the Caribbean. Since 1981, the date of his first voyage to Cuba, Melvin Edwards has woven important links to a global artistic community — the miniaturist Gilberto de la Nuez, the poet Nancy Morejón, the sculptor Alberto Lescay, the filmmaker Rigoberto López Pego, and many others. It was important for him to concretize this long friendship and pay tribute to his ancestors from Africa. Each column is different in small details — different dimensions, one is more square than the other, more mechanical — but they exhibit the same concept. In both sculptures, the painted raw steel creates an earth-colored patina. While maintaining the same uncluttered shapes and sobriety, Edwards moves away from the curves and contours of previous sculptures. “Point of Memory” is a series of rectilinear artworks, each consist of a large rectangular metal plate, flanked by a thick broken chain. The sculptures stand up against the sky tracing an imaginary line towards a meeting point between two distant coastlines — in permanent conversation across oceans, due to their carefully selected placement, but also through their aesthetic and lyricism. BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE In Saint-Louis, in Senegal, that was the place of exit for people to the Diaspora, to the Americas, to Alabama, Texas, North Carolina, to Santiago de Cuba, Havana, to Mexico, Salvador in Brazil. People came out of there, out of the Senegambia region.9 The columns indicate connections, a reciprocal relationship. They remind us that each place is different, because Africans came and contributed to the culture. For example, Edwards likes to tell a story of the famous poet Phillis Wheatley (c. 1753-1784): 135 In 2012, Melvin Edwards and Jayne Cortez were named honorary citizens of the town of Saint-Louis, the former capital of Senegal. Edwards’ sculptural tapestries and sculptural assemblages are vehicles that expose his “black consciousness” to both local and global audiences, impac ting the collective consciousness. In 2010, Edwards presented the town of Saint-Louis with a sculpture, “Point of Memory” that involves the use of chain, chain-column and column of memory. The sculpture was put up in the Comptoirs des Fleuve Square on the banks of the Senegal River, not far from where the river mouth opens into the Atlantic. For Edwards the choice of site to display his public sculptures is crucial. He is attracted to places where there is an entrance or exit, into or from a country, a world or a community. For him: