SELECTED AND RELATED LINKS
We are proud to announce that in 2007, this page will include, for your information and research, a listing of archived articles and links to other online materials about Che Baraka.
We have collected and received from dozens of public and private sources, articles, photographs, and other materials spanning three decades, which document the life and professional career of this artist.
If you have or know of any available materials related to Che Baraka, and would like to share them, please let us know.
We welcome letters from Baraka's fellow artists, colleagues, former students, family, friends, collectors/patrons, admirers and detractors. Send us your shared Baraka memories, experiences, and anecdotal insights. Your contributions will be properly credited and acknowledged.
In addition to the cultural history and arts resource these materials will provide for other visitors to this web site, these archives will also be part of the documentary film: 'Knotted Water", presently being written and scheduled for release in 2009.
The film, "Knotted Water", chronicles the work and life of the artist Che Baraka, his contemporaries, and the defining issues of African American artists from 1970 thru 1990.
With...(maturity), art and life become one.
Che Baraka was born in Chicago Illinois. At the age of six his family returned to the parents birthplace, Jackson, Mississippi. Though as a child he would leave Jackson to live in , San Antonio, Texas And New Orleans, Louisiana...it is his growing up in rural Mississippi that would spark his social consciousness. It was here that he was exposed to the profound beginnings of America's Civil rights movement that had began in Birmingham Alabama with the young Baptist minister, Martin Luther King.
Though only twelve and unable to participant in the Freedom Rides...he bore witness to the idealism of its student leaders. Most notable his cousin Gene Young who is cited in Anne Moody's book "The Coming of Age in Mississippi".
His talents as a gifted artist were noted by his grade school teachers...teachers who knew that Mississippi's educational system provided few resources for black students. It was a six grade art teacher whom managed to engage the interest of administrators at the prestigious Exeter Academy. So impressed were they with the young Baraka...they sent a young Nigerian scholar to convince his parents to allow him to attend on a full scholarship. For reasons that are not quite clear his mother opposed and rejected the offer.
Che Baraka was not a model student. Rebellious and no doubt intellectually bored by the educational fare...he often skipped school to explore the piney woods of Jackson. These choices created additional stresses between him and the traditional conservative, disciplinary attitudes that his parents held and shared with many southern blacks of their generation.
His first mentor and perhaps spiritual guide, was a young civil rights activist named Jesse Morris who was the director of a unique and creative economic experiment in Mississippi 's black poverty stricken delta. Jesse Morris was one of the founders of "The Liberty House Cooperative" which had been created to teach poor African Americans traditional African techniques in quilt making, pottery, candle making, and wood carving. The items made were sold in exclusive boutiques in New York. The sales proceeds providing a decent income for the black artisans. Baraka would decades later use this economic model for unskilled urban poor.
Though Baraka was only seventeen, his natural talent as an artistic prodigy were part of Jackson Mississippi's black community's pride. Jesse Morris took him under his wing and encouraged him to develop his creativity and explore the worlds greater possibilities.
With Morris's mentoring he would leave Jackson for New York.
Che Baraka applied to and attended New York's School of Visual Arts, where he graduated with honors and a BFA. Later he would attend New York University and acquire an MFA in Arts Administration.
He spent his university days in New York's Harlem and Greenwich Village. There he would meet and learn from artists such as Leroy Clarke, Ed Spriggs, Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Faith Rheingold, Benny Andrews, Ernie Critchlow, Tom Feelings. His growth as an artist and the development of his visual and
Baraka's literary sense would be formed by his introduction to the works of Toni Morrison, the South American writers of "magical realism" and friendships with Leroi Jones, Derek Walcott, The Last Poets, Ed Bullins, Sam Art-Williams, , even a chance meeting with the activist Abbie Hoffman would have its influence.
The Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation (BSRC) was founded by the late United States Senators, Robert F. Kennedy and Jacob Javitts. Its founding board members included , John Doar and the late Charles Innis, who then served on the boards of the Studio Museum in Harlem; Museum of Modern Art; and the Brooklyn Museum.
Che Baraka begin working at the Restoration Corporation's Center for Art and Culture as an art instructor, but soon began to develop uniquely creative arts programming and community outreach approaches that quickly increased the Center's prominence and funding. He quickly was appointed Exhibition Coordinator. Because of his administrative skills he was soon head of fund raising, head curator, and finally assistant director.
During this time he produced an astounding body of work and was curator of countless exhibitions that were critically appraised and continued as a revered art instructor, continuously invited to conduct classes at major art education institutions throughout New York...(more to come)
Meeting the Magician
Written and researched by Theodore "Teddy" Gunn
(Theodore Gunn is an artist and former director of the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation's Center for Art and Culture|
Che Baraka is in his late forties. I am in my late sixties. I have often been asked by people meeting or seeing us together initially, if Che was my son. To this day that question causes me mild and ironic bemusement. I have no reluctance in admitting that Che has often been my advisor and guide far more frequently then I have been his. Moreover, many of my professional accomplishments in the arts are to be shared and even sourced to his role in my life. These realizations came long after we first met...but that first meeting should have told me this...
In 1973 I was asked by Charles Inniss, who was then Chairman of the Board of the Studio Museum in Harlem ( and where I worked as museum docent) to join a newly formed community development corporation, The Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation. in Brooklyn New York. I accepted the invitation and was hired as Exhibition Coordinator for BSRC's Art and Culture Center.
The center was housed in a storefront on Brooklyn's Fulton Street in the heart of the Bedstuy community. Though it was and is the largest black community in America, in 1973 Bedford Stuyvesant was plagued by the multiple social, economic, and cultural ills that are produced by poverty and neglect.
The center's mission was to make the arts accessible to that community and provide venues for black artists to exhibit, create, and promote their works.
To that end I organized a large group of artists to participate in the Fulton Art Fair, an annual outdoor exhibit that had taken place since the nineteen-fifties.
Those were difficult and disheartening times for African American artists. With virtually no presence in the cities galleries and museums, most black artists were delegated to neighborhood art fairs and private showings in the homes of a handful of middle class African American art patrons.
On the day of the Fulton Art Fair, the weather was hot and humid. Rumbling thunder was heard as the artists set up their work under the trees lining the park where the fair was held. By noon the exhibition had drawn its usually large and appreciative crowd. I had placed several of my own paintings on easels. I watched a young black man, whom looked to be no more then a teenager, approach my work and view them with silent intensity. He remained so, for half an hour. I finally went over and asked him what he thought of my work. He replied:
"Like all classicism, you find your visual voice in the works content -- and not its process. Picasso, and Modigliani saw that in traditional Senufo sculpture. Your work shares that understanding. My name is Che Baraka."
That meeting was the genesis of a professional relationship and endearing friendship that has spanned three decades. In the course of those thirty years I have on countless occasions borne witness to Che Baraka's genius, creative brilliance, visionary social activism, singularly dynamic leadership and humanism.
Now least you think the above is hyperbole and the flattery bestowed by close friends---- I sincerely assure you it is not ---- in truth, it is understatement.
Back to top