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2020 Botkin Lectures

Online Archive of Past Benjamin A. Botkin Folklife Lectures

All of the materials from the Botkin Lectures are available to visitors in the Folklife Reading Room. Links to webcasts and selected materials will be made available online as digital versions become available.

African American Dollmaking and Puppetry: Renegotiating Identity, Restoring Community
various speakers, moderated by Camila Bryce-Laporte

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An African American doll dressed in off-white lace
Ancestral Doll by Paula Whaley. Photo courtesy of the artist.
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February 18, 2020, 11:30am-2:00pm
119 First Floor
Thomas Jefferson Building

View the webcast Running time 01:42:47

Also on Library of Congress YouTube

African American artisans utilize ancient skills and innovative technologies to create dolls and puppets that are both whimsical and starkly serious. Their creations — incorporating clay, textiles, wood, glass, and found objects — embrace the somber reality of African American experiences and optimism for a boundless future. Working alone and in communities these artisans create dolls and puppets that articulate Black beauty, strength, style, spirituality, and truth. Their works, embodying older traditions and innovative vocabularies for storytelling, are designed to amuse, educate, and heal. Dolls of each of 8 makers will be displayed on tables from 11:30-12:00 pm and 1:30 pm-2:00 pm.

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A man holding a puppet of an African American woman and a chair sized for her
Dr. Schroeder Cherry with his puppet Ms Lily at Wits End. Photo courtesy of the artist.
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Folklorist Camila Bryce-Laporte will present seven makers as they discuss their work and the stories behind that work. This will be followed with a question and answer session from 12 noon to 1:30 pm. This program may deal with sensitive subjects and is aimed at adults rather than children. Some of the dolls will be for sale through the auspices of the Library of Congress sales shop.

Speakers:

Camila Bryce-Laporte, former American Folklife Center Folklife Specialist and independent folklorist will present the her foundational work with the artisans., After receiving her BA from Sarah Lawrence College in Fine Arts, Performing Arts and the Humanities, Bryce-Laporte worked in Folklore Studies at George Washington University. For more than 30 years, Camila worked on children, cultural and educational programming for the Children's Television Network, CBS Cable, The Smithsonian Institution, and the Library of Congress.

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Kibibi Ajanku
Kibibi Ajanku
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Kibibi Ajanku curates and guides the elements of the Urban Arts Leadership Fellowship for the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance where she serves as Equity and Inclusion Director. Ajanku is also the Urban Arts Professor for a small cohort of students at Coppin State University, and additionally serves as a Community Researcher for Maryland Institute College of Art. Ajanku works consistently and deeply as a social justice voice. She also leads monthly equity conversations for the Alliance and administers a new Urban Arts Field School project with Urban Arts Leadership fellows and community folklorists, recently funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Dr. Schroeder Cherry, a native of Washington, DC, is now a Baltimore-based artist and 2019 Sondheim competition finalist who captures everyday scenes of African American life, often set in barbershops and utilizing repurposed materials. These works tend to have narratives; but there is no one story, as viewers bring their own experiences to each piece. He also holds a doctorate in museum education from Columbia University (1988) and worked previously for the Institute of Museums and Library Services, a federal agency, first as Deputy Director for Museums, then as Counselor to the Director (2002–11). He currently teaches museum studies to graduate students and resides in Maryland.

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An African American doll wearing a white dress
Ayo (Joy) made by Deborah R. Grayson.
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Deborah R. Grayson makes drawings, paintings, sculpture and prints that draw on magic, myth, and memory to create a contemporary picture of the real and imagined worlds of women's lives. Born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Montgomery County, Maryland, Grayson completed a BA at the University of Maryland, College Park and an MA and PhD at Michigan State University. In addition to her studio work Deborah Grayson is an independent scholar and much sought after workshop facilitator and teacher. Grayson’s creative process embraces deconstruction as part of creation. She is intrigued by the process of bringing together seemingly disparate materials – old, new and found – to build her bodies of work.

Francine Haskins is a doll maker, painter, and author of children's books. Her art reflects her experiences growing up in Washington, DC.

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Linda Kato with a doll she made.
Linda Kato
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Linda Kato is a member of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a progressive international order of Catholic nuns, founded in 1800, with a mission to make God’s love visible in the world, with a focus on education, human development and promotion of social justice. She studied doll making with Gwendolyn Daniels at Montgomery College in Maryland, and found that doll making is a wonderful medium in these polarized times for engaging people and conveying important facts about the world in ways that cut across fault lines of ideology, race/ethnicity, gender, culture, socioeconomic class, and age. Her dolls are accompanied with accounts of the lives of the women they portray and wear clothing that carefully replicates the fashions of their time. The doll she will present is a tribute to Eliza Nebbitt, the first enslaved person who was "gifted" by the Bishop of New Orleans to her Order when its members first arrived in the US in 1818.

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Cynthia Sands
Cynthia Sands
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Cynthia Sands in collaboration with Ghanaian Carver Awuda, has created a series of finely designed and sculpted dolls inspired by the traditional African Akuaba carvings and African folklore. The hand painted dolls in the series are uniquely designed and bring to life the wisdom of our African ancestors. Cynthia Sands spent her formative years in Washington D. C. graduating from Howard University's School of Fine Arts in 1971. 

 

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Imani W. Russell
Imani W. Russell
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Imani W. Russell is the creator of Indigo's Friends Art Dolls and notions and owner of Indigo's Friends Studio in Brentwood, Maryland. She is a largely self-taught dollmaker, designer, and fiber artist drawing on influences from the arts of her mother and her maternal grandmother. Both created hand stitched utilitarian quilts and other wonderful things from worn clothing, found fabrics, and unusual objects. She began creating Indigo's Friends cloth dolls in the early 1990s.

Paula Whaley began working with clay as a healing tool in 1992. She is a sculptor and traditional doll maker. She says "My work has always been concerned with the act of making art as a source of healing. With figurative expression as my primary focus, art has also allowed me to connect with others who respond to this theme. So many aspects of human experience find ways into my work. I am captivated by the ephemeral nature of life, the role of gesture and subtle combinations of elements. The underlying spirit within makes each figure an expression of deep personal reflection."

 

 

 

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   December 9, 2020
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