Celebrating African American culture with The Africa Center
The NewNow, incubated by Virgin Unite, includes human rights activists, environmental activists, scientists, and more, and through collaboration they work to solve some of the most pressing issues of our time.
One of The NewNow leaders is Uzodinma Iweala, an award-winning writer, filmmaker, medical doctor, and Chief Executive Officer at The Africa Center. A true leader in his field, Uzodinma is dedicated to transforming the narratives around Africa and its diaspora.
The Africa Center is a cultural hub located in the heart of New York City, working to educate and transform the way the world understands contemporary Africa. Under Iweala’s leadership, The Africa Center team is reframing narratives around the continent through everything from art, music, food, policy, business, and education.
The centre was built on the remarkable legacy of the Museum for African Art, which was founded in 1984 and contained over 70 exhibitions of historical and contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora (in 140 venues throughout 80 cities, 17 countries and four continents). The museum was then reimagined as The Africa Center in 2013 and work began to move beyond art and culture and into the realms of policy and business.
“We know that the future of the world is largely dependent on the future of Africa, and it was important for us to address this in our evolution,” Iweala said. “Our mission now offers opportunities for greater understanding of how interconnected arts and culture is with policy and business, particularly as a gateway into deeper engagement with the continent and its Diaspora.”
On display through July 17, 2022 was African/American: Making the Nation’s Table, created in partnership with the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD). The exhibit was curated by Dr. Jessica B. Harris and explored the foods of the African diaspora and revealed stories of Black chefs, farmers, and food and drink producers, emphasising the contribution that African American food has made in what we now know as American cuisine.
The centrepiece of the exhibit was The Legacy Quilt, which was made up of 406 blocks pieced together by the quilting collective Harlem Needle Arts into a visual representation of African American contributions to the fabric of American cuisine. The fabrics all featured words on each block by writer Osayi Endolyn. The Legacy Quilt also included an interactive virtual experience where people could submit their own African American culinary heroes and celebrate the continuation of African influence in American food.
“Most are unaware on how important quilting has been to the African American community and its cultural heritage, almost as underacknowledged as the many culinary contributions the community has made in America. The Legacy Quilt is not only a remarkable artifact, but also an incredible way of merging the two histories into one,” Iweala said.
Virgin Unite is proud to support the center as it encourages communities to celebrate, elevate and embrace African culture.