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Having never heard of Tyaphaka I was intrigued to know what it was as well as what it meant. So this is what I was shown, It’s a Whale-like sculpture that is made from rubber inner tubing and ribbon. Tyaphaka is a representation on the idea that things can be submerged or brought up from below the surface. The sculpture takes the form of a beached whale. Though at first one might not see a whale on shore, but as you follow Hlobo’s sculpture you can begin to see the work take form.

So as the art is taking this form there is an analogy around the metaphor of surrendering to the elements over which we as humans have no control; which surrounds our personal lives and the lack of control we have over those that come in and out of our lives like the tide and their impact on us.

Tyaphaka was presented by Castle of Our Skins at Hibernian Hall this past March. The program included orchestra music, a talk on African mask and a profound dance selection costumed by a spectacular designer.

L’Merchie Frazier. Director of Education and Interpretation for the Museum of the African American History gave a profound talk on African Mask. Her talk gave great significance to the origins of African Mask and their meaning to ceremony and everyday life within the African communities such as the Egun community, Dogan community, Goma Congo to name a few. Frazier spoke of materials they’re made of such as beads, metal and wood as well as how these masks are cared for by the families of the community where they are created. They are part of the family. Frazier gave a talk on quilting and what represents in the African American community like “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” of Gen. Tubman and We Just Keep On Coming, created by Frazier, and “Calvary Spiritual” Birmingham Bombing, creator Silvia Hernandez, and Paul Robeson as Othello On Broadway, creator Glenda Richardson. All of these quilts told the story of a people and the interpretation gave credence to what you saw.

Tyaphaka’s performance was composed by four composers who were selected from a worldwide call for composers for this project. The composers, Jessie Montgomery for “Voodoo Dolls,” Pang Chun-ting for “Static,” Florence Price for “Five Folksongs in Counterpoint” and Clifton Ingram for ‘Tyaphaka”, created compositions that reflected the art that was presented. Tyaphaka’s composition also included a spectacular dance performance by Lexy Lattimore whose costume was created by Kreyol.


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