“Black to the Future”: new WAM exhibit celebrates a rich African history

The new exhibit in the Weisman Art Museum’s Target Studio encourages visitors to reimagine North Minneapolis’ past, present and “Afrofuture.”

Exhibit Curator Amoke Kubat poses for a portrait in the Weisman Art Museum on Saturday, Feb. 15. Yo Mama’s House, an artist, activist and healer cooperative, is celebrating Black History Month and Women’s History Month with this pop-up display. (Emily Urfer / Minnesota Daily)

Emily Urfer

Exhibit Curator Amoke Kubat poses for a portrait in the Weisman Art Museum on Saturday, Feb. 15. Yo Mama’s House, an artist, activist and healer cooperative, is celebrating Black History Month and Women’s History Month with this pop-up display. (Emily Urfer / Minnesota Daily)

Alex Strangman

As an artist, mother and activist, Amoke Kubat uses her art to shed light on North Minneapolis’ history and empower her community.

In partnership with North Minneapolis creatives and the Yo Mama’s House cooperative, Kubat is continuing her residency at the Weisman Art Museum’s Target Studio with a new exhibit, “Black to the Future: Yo Mama’s Northside Black History Month and Women’s History Month Pop-Up Museum.”

The goal of the gallery is to explore North Minneapolis’s own Afrofuturism by reimagining a future through the lens of the African diaspora. Running from Feb. 8 through April 5, the pop-up museum is currently on display and features works from over 15 artists, with pieces ranging from handmade dolls to repurposed maps celebrating North Minneapolis.

Kubat says a big part of this gallery is looking at Black history, which isn’t fixed in one place or time.

“The thought of this was looking at Black history with a past, present and future. Usually when you’re talking about Black history, you’re talking about contribution and it’s in the past. It’s fixed,” she said. “I want ordinary people to express their own Black experience and think about it from terms of where we came from and where we’re going.”

One of the gallery’s featured artists, Damian Winfield, whose works on display include sculptures dedicated to the victims of the 1920 Duluth lynchings and hand-decorated “memory vases” inspired by late family members, uses his work to highlight the importance of remembrance.

Artist Lauren Evans’ work focuses on shedding experiences and identities dictated by institutions in order to connect with her inner self.

“I hope [patrons] leave with the inspiration to do the same when it comes to decolonizing themselves,” she said.

In addition to being a Black history pop-up museum, “Black to the Future” also highlights women – mothers, activists, healers and artists – and the art they produce, which Kubat says is often underappreciated.

“This is largely female,” she said of the art on display. “We’re showcasing the invisible, emotional and visible labor of women that’s just not valued, and telling women you do make art … your grandmother is art.”

A former teacher, Kubat says the gallery is also about teaching everyone who walks through the door about the experiences tied to the art, even if that takes a little work.

“You can’t do what you do with the European community. People put stuff on the wall and people come and kind of meander around. For this [exhibit] people will come and run … We have to figure out another way to invite people into something that’s different, and may not be what they know,” she said.

In addition to the art on display in the gallery, Kubat also set up an accompanying lineup of performances, movie screenings and workshops. A full schedule can be found on WAM’s website.

What: Black to the Future: Yo Mama’s Black History and Women’s History Month Pop-Up Museum

When: Feb. 8 – April 5

Where: Weisman Art Museum, 333 E. River Road, Minneapolis

Cost: Free