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Catalog Data

Created by:
James Phillips, American, born 1945  Search this
Subject of:
AfriCOBRA, founded 1968  Search this
acrylic paint on canvas , thread
H x W: 96 × 60 in. (243.8 × 152.4 cm)
Diameter (Rolled): 29 1/8 in. (74 cm)
acrylic paintings
"For me, painting is an endless search for discovery, reflective thinking and invention based upon my ancestral heritage." - James Phillips
James Phillips established a unique contemporary aesthetic by incorporating and restructuring West African, Central African, and African diasporic symbols and concepts. In this painting, he engages the concept of Sankofa. Generated from Akan people of West Africa, Sankofa means "it is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot."
One of the visual symbols of Sankofa is the heart, represented here in the center of the painting. In addition to several other Akan symbols (mostly derived from Adinkra cloth), Phillips included Yoruba (Shango’s double ax) and Haitian (the rooster) symbols. Together they represent themes relating to unity, struggle, and common values.
An acrylic painting on canvas incorporating Adinkra symbols in colorful swirls and patterns. The primary colors incorporated in the design are base colors of tan, peach and sky blue, with symbols in maroon, green, light blue, yellow, white, orange and purple. Throughout the canvas, preparatory drawing lines and shapes are visible, possibly in charcoal or graphite. The painting is unstretched, with sleeves on both ends through which a dowel can be placed. The patterns and motifs used throughout the painting reflect the AfriCOBRA style or tradition. The canvas is signed by the artist at the lower left corner.
African American  Search this
Africa  Search this
Art  Search this
Credit Line:
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
Object number:
Restrictions & Rights:
© James Phillips
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See more items in:
National Museum of African American History and Culture Collection
Visual Arts
Religious and Sacred Objects
Data Source:
National Museum of African American History and Culture