February 24 — April 6, 2024

We Didn't Realize We Were Seeds

Dr. Fahamu Pecou



Conduit Gallery is honored to announce the solo exhibition of paintings, sculptures and works on paper by Atlanta, Georgia-based artist Dr. Fahamu Pecou.

We Didn't Realize We Were Seeds
Dr. Fahamu Pecou

In my latest body of work, I draw inspiration from the concept of afrotropes, a term coined by art historians Huey Copeland and Krista Thompson. They describe afrotropes as recurring visual forms that have emerged within and become central to the formation of African-diasporic culture and identity. Manifesting as codes, symbols, aesthetics, and concepts, afrotropes evolve alongside Black culture and shifting notions of Blackness. One prominent example of an afrotrope is the iconic image of Tommie Smith’s bold, fist-raised gesture at the 1968 Olympics. The image has been reproduced in various mediums over the years, from posters to t-shirts, as well as a recent collaboration with conceptual artist Glenn Kaino. The image of Smith recycles throughout visual culture as a symbol of defiance, revolution, and racial solidarity. Afrotropes like the Smith image visually capture the intangible, improvisational, and vibrational aspects of Black creative expression while also embodying the enduring nature of African spiritual and philosophical constructs.

Scholar Vongai Mpofu suggests that time, from an African perspective, is a sociocultural reality. She states that time is viewed as cyclical rather than linear and as a continuous process of birth, growth, death, and rebirth. In fact, several indigenous African cultures believe that death itself is not an end but a birth into a new state of being, the end of one cycle and the beginning of a new one. The indigenous notion of rebirth and regeneration mirrors patterns found in the natural world, like the sun and moon, seasons and weather patterns. This view of time aligns with the concept of afrotropes. Afrotropes also operate in cycles, upholding the tradition of indigenous social, spiritual, and philosophical ideals. They recycle Black visual culture and become signifiers of our most significant moments. With each iteration of these recurring ideas, Blackness expands and stretches, igniting and sustaining these themes when we least expect but often when we most need them.

In my exhibition, “...They Didn’t Realize We Were Seeds,” I delve into and reinterpret various aspects of Black identity across time and cultures, encompassing art, fashion, politics, and spirituality. Through my work, I identify and engage several afrotropes, discovering their inherent power and significance. They take the form of totems or fetish objects and are then worked and imbued to serve an apotropaic function, guarding and protecting Black subjectivity and viability.

Within my pieces, you will encounter wreaths of cotton transformed into crowns, African ritual masks juxtaposed with Air Jordans and durags. What might initially seem like a collision of ideas actually demonstrates the resilience and adaptability of indigenous African spiritual and philosophical constructs, which continue to animate and shape contemporary Black identity. Like seeds in a fruit, afrotropes leave behind traces that reproduce, grow, and expand our ways of seeing, being, and becoming. Throughout these drawings, paintings, and sculptures in this exhibition, I deploy afrotropes as visual cues to signify and affirm the viability of Black culture. If you know, you know. If you don’t, you won’t. Despite attempts to deny or diminish Black existence, afrotropes serve to remind us of our brilliance and resilience. Ultimately these works acknowledge that they tried to bury us, but they (and more importantly, we) didn’t realize we were seeds.

Dr. Fahamu Pecou is an interdisciplinary artist and scholar whose works combine observations on hip-hop, fine art, and popular culture to address concerns around contemporary representations of Black men. Through paintings, performance art, and academic work, Dr. Pecou confronts the performance of Black masculinity and Black identity, challenging and expanding the reading, performance, and expressions of Blackness.

Dr. Fahamu Pecou received his BFA at the Atlanta College of Art in 1997 and a Ph.D. from Emory University in 2018. Dr. Pecou exhibits his art worldwide in addition to lectures and speaking engagements at colleges and universities. As an educator, Dr. Pecou has developed (ad)Vantage Point, a narrative-based arts curriculum focused on Black male youth. Dr. Pecou is also the founding Director of the African Diaspora Art Museum of Atlanta (ADAMA).

Pecou's work is featured in noted private and public national and international collections including; Smithsonian National Museum of African American Art and Culture, Societe Generale (Paris), Nasher Museum at Duke University, The High Museum of Art, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Seattle Art Museum, Paul R. Jones Collection, ROC Nation, Clark Atlanta University Art Collection and Museum of Contemporary Art Georgia.

Dr. Pecou was recently announced as one of the recipients of the 2022 Louis Comfort Tiffany Award. In 2020, Pecou was one of 6 artists selected for Emory University's groundbreaking Arts & Social Justice Fellowship. Additionally, Pecou was the Georgia awardee for the 2020 South Arts Prize. In 2017 he was the subject of a retrospective exhibition "Miroirs de l'Homme" in Paris, France. A recipient of the 2016 Joan Mitchell Foundation "Painters and Sculptors" Award, his work also appears in several films and television shows including; HBO's Between the World and Me, Blackish, and The Chi. Pecou's work has also been featured on numerous publications including Atlanta Magazine, Hanif Abdurraqib's poetry collection, A Fortune for Your Disaster and the award-winning collection of short stories by Rion Amilcar Scott, The World Doesn't Require You.

Artists in this Exhibition

Artist Video