Why AFRK LIFE?
The Short Story
AFRK LIFE was born out of a love for art.
The Full Story
By Daniel Jean-Baptiste
In early 2008 my friend Luc introduced me to a Harlem native and artist named Kenneth Mitchell. The late, great Kenneth Mitchell. This guy was a genius. His art was beautiful, thought provoking, colorful and overflowing his entire Brooklyn apartment. The thing about real artists is that they can’t stop painting. It is as if they are overtaken by another power.
So as we tried to leave Kenneth’s apartment after the first visit, we could barely make it out. We failed to notice coming in that leaving the apartment would be difficult with the fully finished artwork stacked 10 deep along the entryway. Kenneth could barely open the door. At that moment I felt like that artwork lining the hallway was a wrong that needed to be corrected. How could I think that this guy’s art is so great, then just walk out and leave them stacked in neat piles in his apartment? Well, I could not. People needed to see this art!
So Luc and I decided to turn my Manhattan apartment into an art gallery and put on a show for Kenneth. Needless to say it was successful because Kenneth’s art is so fantastic. We had a great time.
A decade later I still hadn’t done another art show. The main reason is that Kenneth unfortunately passed away soon after the first show and I got busy at work. I settled uncomfortably back into my corporate grind.
Finally in 2017 I held another art show. This time for Boubakary Konseimbo, an artist from Burkina Faso. The art was different but had more of what attracted me to Kenneth’s art. It’s as if Kenneth’s art had been referring to Bouba’s art all along and now I was closer to the source. This led me to do a deeper dive into the history of African art. What attracts me personally to art that originates from Africa is its connection to the natural and supernatural. It is beyond visual. I am no longer just looking at this painting or sculpture, I am feeling it and realizing, on a level that is difficult to pinpoint, that I am somehow implicated in the artwork. There is no false dividing line that says, Daniel is object “A” observing the art, which is object “B”. That is a false construct. There is just one fully connected world. So when you look at something, there are levels, and what you “see” is limited only by your ability to perceive with more than just your eyes.
Therefore, it did not take long to realize that art was more than just the paintings and the sculptures. Art is often manifested in all aspects of a culture. The cuisine, fabrics, clothes, hair, make up, religious practices, and customs can all be a form of human expression, that is, art. And in many cultures art is life itself.
AFRK LIFE was created because we believe that traditional art should be celebrated and shared with the rest of the world in a way that honors and benefits the artisans and the planet. In addition to original fine art and fine art prints, we offer one-of-a-kind items for your home as well as luxury fashion products and accessories.