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“Tales from the Mano River” Transforms Miller’s Lobby

Adama Delphine Fawundu, a Brooklyn-born artist and alumna of Columbia’s School of the Arts, has transformed the lobby of Miller Theatre with Tales from the Mano River, a new installation inspired by her ancestral home in Sierra Leone along the Mano River. Commissioned by Miller Theatre and part of Columbia University’s Year of Water, the site-specific exhibition reimagines the traditional narratives by which homeland, spirituality, and history are communicated in an attempt to align more closely with the borderless, hybrid, inter-cultural geography of the African Diaspora.

Adama Delphine Fawundu detailing the new installation in the Miller Theatre lobby.

Executive Director Melissa Smey says that Fawunda’s work “connects beautifully with the University’s Year of Water, an interdisciplinary investigation of water in all of its social, political, cultural, economic, and environmental inequities and complexities.” 

Known for her photographic, video, and mixed media practice, Fawundu incorporates elements of biography, geography, migration, and cosmology as a way of symbolizing the individual and collective experience of the African Diaspora. This piece is made up of composited images of the Mano River, which begins in the Guinea Highlands, and connects Sierra Leone to Liberia before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean—along with traces of masked “beings,” and scans of fabric handmade by Fawundu’s aunt using water from the Mano River.


"Tales from the Mano River" by Adama Delphine Fawundu from Columbia University News on Vimeo.

Tales from the Mano RIver installation will be displayed throughout the 2019-20 season, from September 2019 – June 2020. 

Located on Broadway at 116th Street, Miller Theatre’s lobby is open to the public Monday through Friday, from 10am to 6pm, and beginning two hours before each scheduled performance. 

About the Artist

Adama Delphine Fawundu is a photographer and visual artist born in Brooklyn, New York to parents from Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea, West Africa. She received her MFA from Columbia University School of the Arts. Her art explores the strength of African and Black diaspora culture and identities that continue to evolve despite the social violence of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade and colonialism. Fawundu is a co-founder and author of the book and movement, MFON: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora. She is currently an artist-in-resident at the Center for Book Arts in New York City. Her awards include the Rema Hort Mann Emerging Artist Award, New York Foundation for the Arts Photography Grant, and Brooklyn Arts Council Grant. Ms. Fawundu’s works can be found in private and public collections including the Brooklyn Museum of Art, The Brooklyn Historical Society, The Norton Museum of Art, Corridor Art Gallery, The Museum of Contemporary Art at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, and the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of Visual Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora at the University of Maryland.

About the Curator

Kalia Brooks Nelson, Ph.D., is a New York-based curator, consultant, educator, and arts administrator. She is currently an Adjunct Professor in the African American and African Diaspora Studies Department at Columbia University. Brooks Nelson holds a Ph.D. in Aesthetics and Art Theory from the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts. She received her M.A. in Curatorial Practice from the California College of the Arts in 2006, and was a Helena Rubinstein Fellow in Critical Studies at the Whitney Independent Study Program 2007/2008. She is co-editor of Women and Migration: Responses in Art and History published in 2019 by Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK. She has served as a consulting curator with the City of New York through the Department of Cultural Affairs and Gracie Mansion Conservancy. Kalia Brooks Nelson is also currently an ex-officio trustee on the Board of the Museum of the City of New York.