Adama Delphine Fawundu is a photo-based visual artist born in Brooklyn, NY to parents from Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea, West Africa. She received her MFA from Columbia University. Ms. Fawundu is a co-author of the book MFON: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora. Ms. Fawundu is a 2016 New York Foundation of the Arts Photography Fellow. Her most recent works investigate the spiritual, cultural, and ideological pre-colonial ways of being that were disrupted by voluntary immigration, colonialism, and distorted within the African Diaspora through oppressive systems stemming from the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Fawundu uses photography, video, sculpture and printmaking to create new trans-historical identities as she explores Afrofuturist ideas.
Her works have been exhibited in institutions such as the BRIC Biennial, The Brooklyn Museum of Art, International Center of Photography, The Lagos Photo Festival (Nigeria), The Brighton Photo Biennial 2016 (UK), Villa La Pietra (Italy) and the Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago). Ms. Fawundu has been awarded grants from the Brooklyn Arts Council, Columbia University School of the Arts, The Puffin Foundation, and The Open Society Institute. Her works can also be found in the the collections at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, The Norton Museum of Art, Corridor Art Gallery, and The Museum of Contemporary Art at the University of São Paulo, Brazil.
Her works are published in anthologies such as: Contact High: A Visual History of Hip Hop by Vikki Tobak, Africa Under the Prism: Contemporary African Photography from the Lagos Photo Festival by Joseph Gergel, ReSignifications: European Blackamoors, Africana Readings, Edited by Awam Ampka, and Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers 1840-Present by Dr. Deborah Willis. Her works have also been featured in publications such as Surface Magazine, The New York Times, Time Magazine, The BBC and New York Magazine.
The Sacred Star of Isis takes the ancient West African deity, Mami Wata, as a departure point and build on my engagement with my Mende heritage of Sierra Leone. Linking known and under-recognized geographies of the African diaspora, my work upends national and temporal borders, invoking interconnectivity and transformation across cultural and environmental thresholds.
Within this world, we move between Sierra Leone, Argentina, Harlem, Nigeria, Amagansett (NY), Massachusetts, and upstate New York. Generated are connective threads of exchange between the magical space of nature and the material structures of history. Inhabiting colonial architecture, wooded forest, balls of cotton, and my childhood hairdo of the crescent curl, I reformulate spaces of positivity and empowerment in the shadows of cultural annihilation and historic violence.
“Adama Delphine Fawundu’s work is about finding ways to connect with her kin – a group not merely confined to those who share a direct common ancestor, but an expansive definition inclusive of the many who descend from the dispersed, the stolen, those for whom the violence, and opportunity wrought by the sea is at once a spectre and a fact of everyday life,” writes scholar Niama Safia Sandy.
The Sacred Star of Isis (2017-ongoing) features my body occupying a host of settings that bore witness to events of the diaspora. Documenting myself as a black female agent within these ghostly sites, I employ masks, garments, and gestures to mark the specificity of my locations and to unearth stories that sit beneath their surfaces. This series includes mixed media works inspired by fabrics hand-dyed by her paternal grandmother Adama, and her aunt of Sierra Leone.
Water and hair are two textures that permeate the series, each evoking a profound form of doubling that inspires much of my work. For me, water symbolizes the horrific journey of slavery and the journey that my parents chose when they moved to the US. Hair remains a socially-engineered construct of beauty and was also used as a mapping device for runaway slaves through the formation of cornrows. Uncovering nuanced entanglements within such sources of oppression, I re-imagine and glorify the strength of my identity, culture, and network of kin.” – Adama Delphine Fawundu