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Liberian artist Zeinway showcases work for Kuumba Arts

October 13, 2010

By Brittany Lett

This year’s Kuumba Arts presentation at Cleveland State featured “The Chapters of My Life: Identity Issues” by Martin Zeinway, an artist whose experiences cross over on two sides of the Atlantic, Africa and America.

The Kuumba Arts presentation is brought by the Black Student Union and the African Students Association at Cleveland State and was inaugurated during the “Congo Week Gala Night: All for Africa” in the CSU Student Center Ballroom Oct. 7.

Hosted by Patchio Muleba, president of BSU and the CSU NAACP chapter, attendees enjoyed a Kuumba Arts presentation, “The Chapters of My Life: Identity Issues,” by starving artist Martin Zeinway.

“Most of my artwork came from my life experiences,” Zeinway said.

Zeinway came to Cleveland as a refugee of the Civil War in his homeland of Monrovia, Liberia in 1994. He graduated from high school and later went to a few colleges in Ohio and received a degree in education and then a master’s in fine arts.

It wasn’t until in 2006, when Zeinway began experiencing identity and other issues .

While obtaining his master’s degree, he really began to look into identity issues.

“When I was in the black community they would say, that’s the African guy,” Zeinway said. “In the white community I was the black guy and when I would return to Liberia is way the American guy.”

Zeinway’s paintings contain rich colors reflecting his cultures such as his use of red, gold and green.

Symbolic images in the paintings were used multiple times to represent knowledge, peace and God along with images of himself, the war in his country and how he viewed the identity issues he was experiencing in America and Liberia.

One of his pieces entitled, “A Cry for Peace” is of a little boy sitting head down with the word “peace” around the border and symbols surrounding him.

Zeinway also reflects his cultural and social views through clothing he designed to express the merge of his Liberian culture with American.

“I created my own identity,” Zeinway said. “I’m not African, I’m not Liberian, I’m not black, I’m not American, but I’m a person, a human being, a man.”

A continued display of Zeinway’s artwork is displayed in the Black Studies Cultural Center from now until Nov. 6.