The Distant Relatives exhibit made its premiere on Friday, January 20th, 2017 at the South Dallas Cultural Center. Distant Relatives is a collaborative photography exhibit by Moyo Oyelola and Hakeem Adewumi that focuses on the African diaspora that occurred because of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Due to slavery, many Africans became displaced and created new cultures in different regions of the world where they were taken. The exhibit featured storytelling, photography, and video which creates a unique multi-sensory aesthetic experience while educating the audience.
By examining the various cultures and people that arose from groups among the diaspora Distant Relatives creates a sense of identity for the South Dallas community. The South Dallas Cultural Center has been a pillar for providing education about African and African American history and culture through the use of art in the South Dallas community for over thirty years. The Distant Relatives exhibit has created quite the excitement for the South Dallas Cultural Center and revived its relevance among the African American community. “More people showed up for this exhibit than any exhibit we’ve ever had. . . We’ve always drawn one kind of crowd so when people really responded we were all saying, ‘Thank God the millennials are coming out!’ There were lots of families. People in their 30s, 40s, 50s, with their children,” said Marilyn Clarke, education coordinator at the South Dallas Cultural Center. When asked what exactly she took from the exhibit she expressed the importance of understanding, “We are all connected.”
Adewumi and Oyelola feel that migration and sharing stories plays a large role in creating connections between African descendants worldwide. These efforts allow us to understand that our identity is formed from more than merely our citizenship and nationality. These two artists want to educate the audience on the various cultures that make up the African diaspora. Countries featured in the exhibit include Brazil, Nicaragua, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Morocco, and Zimbabwe. As African Americans, it is hard to trace back one’s lineage and truly know, understand, and embrace one’s own culture because it’s difficult for many to know where to start due to the dispersion created by the slave trade. Moyo and Hakeem aspire to give their audience a deeper understanding of history and current events through their exhibit. These artists are effectively creating an experience that will give the African American community and all other cultures in the Dallas area insight about the various cultures that can be traced back to Africa. Their decision to partner with the South Dallas Cultural Center has been extremely effective in reaching their audience and allowing them to expose millennials to a center where they can ultimately learn more about themselves and their history. To Moyo Oyelola Distant Relatives is, “a vehicle that we use to create community and foster conversations about the past, present, and future.” “The desire to bring people together and to also answer questions about ourselves…” is what Moyo Oyelola says personally inspired him to create the exhibit. Oyelola also stated, “The album Distant Relatives by Nas and Damian Marley also played a huge part, not only in the name but as a musical piece that painted visuals of the stories we wanted to tell. . .I want people to see themselves in the images and continue the process of asking questions about the past, present, and future. This whole show started from being curious about our separate past and questions we had around identity.