Mayor Ras J. Baraka today announced that the City of Newark will showcase a new public mural, “Sankofa” (“go back and get it”), created by Ghanaian artist Mohammad “Moh” Awudu, tomorrow, Saturday, July 29, at noon, at 2 Treat Place, in the city’s downtown.
Mr. Awudu was born and raised in Nima, a suburb of Accra, Ghana. The artist arrived in Newark in early June to perform at AfroBeat Fest, coordinated by First Lady Mrs. Linda Baraka and has been painting the mural for the last three weeks.
“‘Sankofa’ could well be a motto for our City of Newark, as we reflect on where, and what, our residents have come from, come through, and come to,” said Mayor Baraka. “All of us use the lessons of our own past every day, and build on the insights and success of our parents and grandparents. When we draw on the ancestral wisdom we carry within us, and use it as a guiding light through current challenges, we honor our traditions, and safeguard our future. I’m so grateful to Mr. Awudu for expressing this truth here in the middle of our downtown district.”
“The City of Newark and cities in Ghana have had Sister City relationships for many years, and this partnership is evidence of the connection between the two communities,” said Mrs. Baraka. “The Newark and Ghana relationship is further strengthened by the Sankofa mural. I am so proud that Mayor Baraka and the arts district were able to bring Mohammed Awudu here to complete this beautiful piece.”
Mr. Awudu’s work celebrates his West African culture, using Adinkra symbols as a vehicle for storytelling. This new artwork is his largest mural to date, nearly 60-foot tall and 4,000 square ft. The mural title Sankofa is a Twi word from the Akan Tribe of Ghana that means “go back and get it.” The artist encourages learning from the past and our ancestors’ teaching to inform the future— reaching back to move forward.
“This mural represents a universal truth, that each of us, no matter our culture, race or belief system, holds within us the key to understanding and liberation,” said Mr. Awudu. “If we can be still long enough to be guided by our own heartbeat, we will find our way toward every answer we need. Answers rooted in love and a generous spirit.”
The composition positions a woman adorned in a vibrant Dukus (turban) at the forefront, her powerful eyes locking with passersby. Surrounding her is an assemblage of African iconology and Islamic calligraphy. Some Adinkra symbols present in the composition represent unity, the supremacy of God, hardiness, toughness, and perseverance. The Arabic word “Iqra” meaning “read,” is emphasized. The two vernaculars intertwine, sharing a narrative about the mural’s location and how language is critical to the community’s inclusive development and success.
Birds fly throughout the mural background touching on migration. Their prominence serves as a reminder that even when we call a new place home, we should continue to embrace the place where we first took flight.
“Newark is a beautiful city, deserving of beautiful public art and the transcendent gift of Mohammad Awudu, who has breathed life into his vision,” said Newark Project Manager of Arts & Cultural Affairs Michele Morgan Truvillion. “Just like in life, we start out not knowing where we’ll end up, but once the mural is complete, we understand how the colors and symbols create a unique vibrancy. This piece has tremendous inspirational value to every Newark resident.”
Now embellishing Treat Place, home to the Four Corners Public Arts project between Branford Place and Williams Street, the mural was commissioned by the City of Newark Division of Arts and Cultural Affairs, organized by Four Corners Public Arts, and further supported by Invest Newark. Fittingly, it adorns Branford Place, the previous home of the Islamic Society of Essex County and its historic mosque.
About Four Corners Public Arts
Four Corners Public Arts was initiated in 2019 through a public/private partnership convened to support public arts initiatives in Newark’s historic district Four Corners. The partnership includes The City of Newark, Invest Newark, Newark Arts, Newark Downtown District, Paramount Assets, and RBH Group.
The partnership evolved out of a common interest to give care to under-acknowledged areas of the City through the arts, with the goal of cultivating creative communal space for everyone. At a time when Newark is undergoing a marked transformation, the partnership believes it is imperative to create opportunities that strengthen the local creative community. Learn more at https://www.fourcornerspublicarts.org/.
For photos of mural in progress and detail, click here.