Kobena E. AlaKetu (Joseph L. Johnson)
This painting was featured in an UWM poster for African American History and Liberation Month in 1995 (image below). We have both the original piece and the poster in our collection. The original is currently hanging up in the Fireside Lounge and it was recently framed in 2018. The painting has four quadrants depicting scenes that seem to correlate to different themes that make up the artist’s interpretation of an ‘urban mosaic’ and the experiences of Black individuals specifically: education, family life, motherhood, and the darkest quadrant, which doesn’t seem to depict one theme but rather alludes to negative effects of police presence, crime, and addiction.
We don’t know much about this artist, unfortunately. The only details we have come from the back of the piece where the artist, it is presumed, filled out the title, artist name, and medium. The artist made a point to sign first with Kobena E. AlaKetu and then put Joseph L. Johnson in parentheses. If you know this artist and/or have any information about the artist or this piece, please let us know!
Visual Description: A painting with four quadrants and a quilt pattern border that goes around almost the entire image. The middle of the painting has a golden oval shape with two silhouetted figures mirroring each other. The top left-hand corner quadrant has five orange-red silhouettes of people and below shows a teacher gesturing to a board that has “Education Brings Out the Best in Us” written on it in chalk. The top right-hand corner includes a police car with screaming mouths surrounding it and below that, a person sitting in a windowsill with a bottle next to them. Two other figures stand to the left of the figure, one looking forwards and one with their back turned. The bottom left hand corner shows a child and two adults in the kitchen with one adult hugging the seated adult around the shoulders from behind. The bottom right-hand corner depicts a mother with three children in a rural setting. The border is primarily yellow with three purple parts at the top and on the sides. A city skyline is at the top under the border.
The second image is the poster that the painting is featured on. The painting is center on the poster with “African American History and Liberation Month in 1995” at the top and “Reclaiming the Urban Mosaic: Issues, Challenges, and Triumphs” below the image of the painting.