NYU Black Renaissance Noire NYU Black Renaissance Noire V. 16.1 - Page 138

136 The location of his minimalist and conceptual outdoor sculptures is always meaningful, as is his practice of naming his sculptures after African languages or specific events, which allow him to create an ongoing dialogue between continents, cultures and communities. For Edwards, it is important that African languages stay alive and circulate around the world, to be part of the language of modern art on their own terms. His monumental sculpture-installation “Asafo Kra No” (1993) is on permanent display at the Utsu-kushi-ga-hara Open Air Museum in the Nagano region of Japan. Located on a plateau 2,000 meters above sea level and covering an area of 40,000 square meters, the space hosts about 400 international classic and modern sculptures. Edwards’ artwork consists of three parts of painted steel aligned along a diagonal, a broken chain sits on top of a larger red piece; a yellow rocking piece that relates to his kinetic works and a plain blue disk is placed on each side. With “Asafo Kra No” Melvin Edwards uses the Twi language — a tone language spoken mainly in Ghana — to bring us to a ritual space: It connects to the traditional society in Ghana, the Asafo society, the organization of younger men who are responsible to defend the community. But the Asafo shrine complex is usually the architecture, a fortress combined with human figures and painted in symbolic or appropriate colors and pull libations. Or they can make it also for boats for the war. It is a ritualistic place. These days, it is a football team ritual.11 In 1976-77, Edwards created “Homage to Billie Holiday and the Young Ones of Soweto” displayed at the Morgan State University in Baltimore. Edwards establishes a link between Holiday’s extraordinary vocal aesthetic expression and the rebellion of black school children in Soweto, South Africa, against education imposed in Afrikaans — the language of the oppressor. These metaphors and linkages are part of a process of deconstruction of the habitus established by imperialism and displacements, which are transfixed in memory; something Edwards has been working on for decades. Adama comes back with another glass of tea. She takes back the empty one. The second round is sweeter. Now, I can savor the sugar and mint as I drink in little sips. Slurping tea is recommended. It shows that you like it and are an insider. I stand up and look at some archival photos around the studio. One catches my attention. I am not sure about the location, but Melvin and Jayne are sitting in a courtyard. They are both wearing very elegant tunics tailor-made in a colorful wax fabric. I could never imagine them not looking stylish!