The Founders Project

The Founders Project is a multimedia installation project headed by Boston based artist and educator Stephen Hamilton. The project re-imagines Boston Public School High-School students as the legendary founders of the West and West-Central African ethnic groups, that are part of the ancestral base for the African diaspora. The pieces will incorporate painting, weaving and sculpture traditions from each of the spotlighted ethnic groups and is to be installed in The Bruce C. Bolling Building in the fall of 2018. The project will contribute to a larger syllabus on West African cultural continuity in the African Diaspora designed for High School students.

The Founders Project comes out of a desire to both address the  persistent lack of Pre-Colonial African Narratives in mainstream educational discourse and to create empowering visual representations of Boston’s Black Youth. This project both explores and  interrogates popular conceptions of “the Ancestors” within the African Diasporic imagination. We explore the concept of the progenitor or “Founder” in West and West Central African Lore as the physical embodiment of a people and their history. Through their narratives we learn important lessons about the cultural imperatives, worldview and aesthetics of the ethnic groups who venerate and sometimes even worship them as divine ancestors. Each piece dissects important key symbols pertaining to each of the highlighted individuals personal and broader cultural narratives, glossing not only the historical figure, but the cultures that claim them as ancestors.  The installations will also expose viewers to the beauty and complexity of the visual arts of west and central Africa. Each piece will incorporate accurate reproductions of textile and sculpture arts from specific African ethnic groups, using only dyes, pigments and materials available in Pre-Colonial Africa. This Juxtaposed with western styles of acrylic painting will result in new works that draw from both ancient African aesthetic conventions and the rich, contemporary and syncretic mural traditions born out of the Black Arts Movement.