Brooklyn’s Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art transforms parking spaces into a sculpture garden


The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporic Art (Mocada) will open its latest project, the Ubuntu Community Sculpture Garden—an outdoor space located alongside a brownstone in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighbourhood—to the public on Friday (1 September).

The sliver of land, formerly used for parking spaces, has been transformed into an urban oasis and monument to famous Brooklynites, including a two-storey mural of the late art and music critic Greg Tate. The garden’s centrepiece is the ongoing sculpture series Brooklyn Bronzes created by architect and artist Kholisile Dhliwayo, a reference to the famed Benin Bronzes, many of which were looted in the 1890s and have yet to be repatriated.

The sculptures depict, according to Mocada’s website, “the Black pillars of our community who have contributed greatly to arts, education, and advocacy through their work”. Each face is accompanied by a label with a QR code that plays audio of the featured subject discussing their “legacy, their joy, and their resilience”.

Some of the community members depicted include organiser Lumumba Akinwole-Bandele, playwright and screenwriter Lynn Nottage, urban planner Ibon Manar Muhammadi and Laurie Cumbo, the founder of Mocada, former New York City Council member and current commissioner of the city’s department of cultural affairs. New portraits will be continually added to the series, which currently numbers around 20 portraits.

View of the Ubuntu Garden MoCADA

“I curated a list of 80 people (the end of the series is not quite in sight now) using a social justice lens to determine a cross-generational, cross-discipline, cross-experience family of change makers born, bred and/or cut their teeth in Brooklyn, who poured so much into our community over the years that it was time for us to give back to them”, curator Amy Andrieux said in a statement. “Through their stories of triumph and their relentless determination to ensure that we are seen and loved (especially as our community faces erasure), we uplift them as our living testimony: we’ve been here. And together in celebration, we reclaim our home.”

Founded by Cumbo in 1999 in a brownstone in Bed-Stuy, Mocada started as an extension of her graduate thesis, which asked exactly how an African art museum could contribute to the revitalisation of central Brooklyn communities. The museum subsequently moved to the ground floor of James E. Davis 80 Arts Building in Fort Greene.


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