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Arts and Entertainment

LATIBAH Collard Green Museum returns bigger, better
Artist T'Afo Feimster continues mission to spread appreciate of Black culture
Published Wednesday, April 30, 2014
by Michaela L. Duckett

LATIBAH Collard Green Museum founder T'Afo Feimster stands in front of a life-size installment he created as part of his Black history museum, which recently reopened in Charlotte's Westend community.

T’Afo Feimster, founder of the LATIBAH Collard Green Museum, is on a mission to fulfill a need in the community.

“There is a need for African Americans to really understand their history and their culture,” he said. “It’s very critical that we do.”

Feimster believes that as black people have succeeded individually through integration, some of the ties that have historically held the fabric of the community together have been severed.

 “We have not been a community really in the sense that we used to be,” he said. “In terms of a unity with common challenges and working together, we have kind of forgotten about that. We are scattered.”

Feimster went on to question whether black people of today and previous generations have ever fully grasped who we are as a people to the point of taking pride in our culture and African descent.

“We have sort of pushed that aside, and have somewhat assimilated into this society,” he said. “When you avoid your culture or have no connection with your culture or are rejecting your culture, that’s going to affect how you see yourself or how you feel about yourself.”

Feimster said the mission of his museum is, in part, to help bring awareness and education of black history to African Americans so they can feel more pride in their culture.

“First of all, we must understand who we are,” he said. “Once we understand who we are, we will definitely appreciate the greatness of Africa as well as African people and African-American people.”

Exchange of culture

Feimster adds that his message is not just one for African Americans but for the entire community.

“As Carter G. Woodson said, we all need to know about all cultures,” he said. “We want to bring in all diversities of cultures and people to help them understand who we are. We talk about being a melting pot in America and diversity, but when you don’t understand the other person, it’s going to be difficult to communicate and to work together with the lack of understanding. We have to understand, at least as best we can, or be exposed to other cultures as well.”

With that purpose in mind, Feimster hosts a “cultural exchange” program throughout the year. He invites various ethnic groups from the community in to experience a free program on black history and African-American culture. In exchange, the guests of honor share their culture and traditions with the black community.

In April, he invited volunteers from the Hindu community for the exchange. The program included cultural music, ethnic dancing, a play about East Africa and showcase of Indian attire and jewelry.

The next cultural exchange will be held May 24, and Feimster describes it as “a cultural smorgasbord” as all ethnic groups in the area will be invited and honored.

The beginning

Initially, Feimster had no intentions of opening a museum. He was just a working artist showcasing his work.

He was one of many artists who took advantage of the inexpensive artist studios that began popping up all over Charlotte’s NoDa art district about 10 years ago.

In 2003, he rented a small studio in the Art House, a building in NoDa that housed a group of resident artists. Within a year, Feimster outgrew his studio. It took three studios to contain his artwork, which included four life-size installments of art depicting the history of African Americans.

When patrons visited his studios, he said they often remarked that it felt like they were in a museum.

“When people came in, they would actually tour and walk around like it was a museum,” he said. “I found myself talking and explaining my art so it felt like a museum. Eventually, I decided to turn it into a museum for real.”

In 2009, Feimster officially opened LATIBAH Collard Green Museum at The Art House. LATIBAH stands for “Life And Times In Black American History.”

In 2011 the Art House flooded and the building torn down by the city of Charlotte.

Rebuilding the movement

Feimster spent the next two years looking for a new location for his museum. In January 2013, he found one – a vacant building located on Tuckaseegee Road. At the time of purchase, it was nothing more than an empty shell that took nearly a year to renovate.

Feimster held a soft opening in February and has since been hosting programs and special events at the new location. Gallery crawls are held on the second and fourth Friday of each month and educational workshops are held on demand.

“We have not had our grand opening yet, but we are working on having that real soon,” he said.

The new space is much larger than his previous location. Feimster now has room to display 17 exhibits. Previously he only had room for four. He also has a theater stage and multi-purpose room, where he holds performances, special programming and rents out for community events.

The new museum also includes three studios for resident artists.

“We were able to bring the art house concept here,” he said. “I am first and foremost an artist. This allows us to still maintain that artistic element.”

Current resident artists include nationally renowned Tommie Robinson, photographer Jerry Taliaferro and Ed Harris of Picture Perfect Gallery, who is in the process of relocating out of state.

The museum is located at 720 Tuckaseegee Road and open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. and 12–5 p.m. on Sundays for self-guided tours. Larger groups and those interested in guided tours are encouraged to call (704) 333-2426 for reservations.

Visit www.LATIBAHmuseum.org or visit the LATIBAH Collard Green Museum Facebook page for more information or to view a schedule of upcoming events.


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