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Episode #77: Touching Roots: Ifé Franklin

October 28th marked the release of the fourth segment out of seven of our interview series, Touching Roots - an exploratory investigation of the exhibition by the same name currently on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - Touching Roots; Black Ancestral Legacies in the Americas.


In this episode, we had the pleasure of speaking to award winning artist and Boston resident, Ifé Franklin. The title of this exhibition was taken from one of Franklin's collages, currently on view, which contains the phrase "honoring spirit, touching roots".


Ifé's creative portfolio spans many mediums, from the 2D collage on view in this exhibition, 3D work such as that demonstrated in her Ancestor Slave Cabins (part of The Indigo Project), creative writing, tapestry-making, Adire fabric dying using techniques from Yoruba culture of West Africa, and even filmmaking in the case of her recent short film, The Slave Narrative of Willie Mae (a fictionalized account of the story of Franklin's great-grandmother's escape from slavery to freedom).


Much of Ifé's work centers around cultivating connections that promote understanding and healing from the hard history of enslavement.


From Ifé's artist statement:


I am gatekeeper. I am conjure/magic. I bring forth what spirit beckons.

As I move with the wind. I bow to trees and earth. I kiss the sweet waters, they in turn drench me with frequencies/coded languages that I interpret/translate and transmit into the world.

I open. I release. I breathe and hold, all the while pushing and pulling, always birthing, constantly giving/sharing life force where there was once none.

I remember the past, present, the future.

My soul connects vibrations and light that show up as colors, form, song, movement, poetry, collage, drawings, photography, film making, and ancestor slave cabins.

I am unbound creation.

I am an unbound artist.

[Above: Artist Ifé Franklin and curator Martina Tanga standing beside Franklin's work in the Touching Roots gallery. Images taken from this article, written by Chenoa Baker (who we had the pleasure of interviewing as well - you can read about her here) for Boston Art Review]


You can read more about Ifé's work, both in art and activism, on her website here. Make sure to listen to the full length episode to learn more about her work, her philosophies, and her experience contributing to Touching Roots!



"Africa is at once a point of origin and a myriad of associations—real and imagined—for many Black artists working in the Americas. In the 20th century, some artists self-consciously responded to writer and philosopher Alain LeRoy Locke’s call to engage with “those ancestral arts.” Others continued to practice African artistic traditions passed down through generations.This exhibition traces narratives of Blackness across the Atlantic world by bringing together work from artists who absorbed and reinterpreted African artistic practices, sacred customs, and cultural expressions. The artworks honor ancestral spirits and Black legacies through painting, sculpture, textiles, and dance. Artists from throughout the Americas are represented—with a special focus on those from or working in New England, like Allan Rohan Crite, Napoleon Jones-Henderson, Ifé Franklin, Bryan McFarlane, Karen Hampton, and Stephen Hamilton. Highlights from the collection include Ubi Girl from Tai Region (1972) by Loïs Mailou Jones, African Woman (about 1933) by James Richmond Barthé, Untitled (1943) by Wifredo Lam, and George Jackson (1971) by Kofi Bailey.Visitors can explore how shared cultural heritages created connections that formed the basis of communities, highlighting the importance of Africa’s presence in the Americas. By turning their gaze inward and toward Africa, Black artists grounded their artistic expressions and infused strength and insight into their work.


This exhibition accompanies “Stories Artists Tell: Art of the Americas, the 20th Century,” a suite of galleries spanning place and time, and exploring different themes surrounding 20th-century art from the Americas."This exhibition is included in General Admission. The Museum of Fine Arts Boston has a range of discounts for General Admission tickets, including discounted admission passes you can reserve in advance through your local library. Check out the ticketing page at mfa.org here for more information.

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