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Kentifrica is a fictional continent with a mix of influences, with cultural ties to Kentucky and West Africa. For Los Angeles-based artist Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, it's a real place where her ancestral origins lie, and she is taking that theme of intermingling history and identity in her project "Kentifrican Museum of Culture: Re-imagining Identity." With the museum, she hopes to address issues of geography, global colonialism, language, self-identification and displacement.
Hinkle, an interdisciplinary visual artist, performer and writer, first launched the Kentifrica initiative in 2009. The museum has taken shape in a variety of ways, including exhibits in a Reconstruction Era row house in Houston, Texas and an appearance at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. During the last few weeks, she has worked on raising funds for a storefront in Leimert Park Village.
"I'm always really interested in how particular neighborhoods reconstruct narratives and recreate and keep their culture alive. For me, Leimert Park is a magical place that is already doing that," Hinkle says.
Hinkle first became interested in Leimert Park after visiting drum circles and art walks on the weekends. The art walks and pop-up events are a collaborative effort by various groups, including KAOS Network, a media production organization, and The World Stage, an educational and performing arts gallery. Papillion Gallery, a new contemporary gallery in the area, adds to the arts scene with its focus on exhibiting work by emerging artists. It occupies the space previously inhabited by Brockman Gallery, the first African-American owned gallery in L.A.
"I'm really interested in Leimert Park Village because it's a community that's really evolved," Hinkle says. "I felt that Leimert Park was such an interesting space in which that type of remixing and reimagining was already happening in really interesting ways. To bring the Kentifrican Museum there and to collaborate with members of the community in a more conceptual art framework would be really, really interesting," she says.
Hinkle hopes to expose participants to elements of Kentifrican culture like food, hairstyling and music. She also plans on providing free public programming such as panel discussions, instrument building workshops, musical performances, themed potlucks, Kentifrican cooking classes, film festivals and screenings as well as bookmaking workshops. Furthermore, she is interested in reaching out to local galleries, museums, and businesses to collaborate on monthly events.
"I work with people who consider themselves to be established artists, all the way to people who don't even contextualize what they're doing as art," Hinkle said. "Whoever wants to be able to engage with [the project] and interface with it, it is a place for them."
Through the museum, Hinkle hopes that others will be inspired to engage with their own culture, and distance themselves from ideas that have been projected on them historically. She highlights the theme of diaspora, the movement of populations, in the museum. It is her hope that the Kentifrica Museum of Culture will encourage others to develop their own cultural museums and explore their own histories.
"The project is really about reconstructing and remixing history, not accepting historical constructions of what your culture is or what your ethnicity is or what behaviors you do," Hinkle said. "It's a chance to reimagine and create your origin stories for your own existence or certain neighborhoods."
Hinkle anticipates a 12-month residency in Leimert Park Village, and plans on documenting the activities and interactions that take place in the space. She has already received a $10,000 grant from Social Practice Art, a funding initiative that supports Los Angeles-based projects focused on social change through socially engaged art. She is also looking for donations from the public to help secure a storefront space. Visit the Kentifrica Museum of Culture's website to find out more.