Sacred Star Water Mask, Freetown, Sierra Leone, 2017
Presented with the group MAD from August 9–September 8, 2019

Professor and Alumna Adama Delphine Fawundu '18 Featured in Five Exhibits this Fall

BY Audrey Deng, September 19, 2019

This fall, Adjunct Assistant Professor and alumna Adama Delphine Fawunda ’18 will be featured in five exhibits across the country.


The Brooklyn-born artist focuses her work on postcolonial critique and the conditions of black identity politics, spirituality, and gender. In a Student Spotlight from 2017, Fawunda said that she was, then, “working with photographs, West African batik, and dyed fabrics and found cultural objects (i.e. beads, jewelry, hair, carvings) that I’ve been collecting throughout the years.” This provides a glimpse into the breadth of materials Fawunda uses in her art, and the variety of forms her art takes. One line from her artist’s statement stands out in particular: “Unfolding layers only to create new ones.”


During her time at Columbia, Fawunda was a 2016-2017 recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Photography, a fellowship awarded to artists living and working in the state of New York. According to the website, “These fellowships are not project grants but are intended to fund an artist’s vision or voice, regardless of the level of their artistic development.”


Fawunda’s artistic vision, then, is one of perpetual repurposing to create new art. At the senior thesis show last spring, she presented what Hyperallergic called a “haunting installation.” “In many of her works, Fawundu splits her subjects’ bodies in two. ‘Earth Seed’ (2018) depicts a man — with cowry shells covering his eyes  — whose legs have been turned into long strands of black hair. In ‘Olokun’ (2017), another man’s lower half appears to consist solely of a grass skirt.” By pairing found objects, Fawunda is able to create new works out of collage.


Her interest in photography began in 1993, when New York’s hip-hop scene was in full swing. “I knew that this golden era of hip-hop was important,” Fawunda said on Photoville’s website. “Understanding the power of my focus, I documented every moment that I could.” Her interest in photographing hip-hop would launch a ten-year journey of documenting Afro-Pop and urban youth culture across Africa. No Wahala, It’s All Good: A Spiritual Cypher within the Hip-Hop Diaspora is Fawunda’s presentation of this cultural connection between Africa and its diaspora. Her photography capturing this period is on display at Photoville, in Brooklyn, NY September 12–22, 2019.


Work by Adama Delphine Fawunda

Passageways #3, Secrets, Traditions, Spoken and Unspoken Truths or Not, 2017, showing at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, CA


More of Fawunda’s work can be found at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, CA, in an exhibit participating in the museum’s season of exhibitions dedicated to photography in the African Diaspora. The Sacred Star of Isis and Other Stories is, according to the museum’s website, an exploration of the “tension between her family’s traditional Mende beliefs (Sierra Leone) and Westernized values. By incorporating ancestral gifts of colorful handmade batik fabrics and layering these complex and distorted histories, her work uncovers personal and universal cultural patterns that are present within herself and the African Diaspora.” This exhibit will be on view September 4–November 15, 2019.


On October 31, 2019, Fawunda will give a performance as part of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art’s series Afrocosmologies: American Reflections. The series invites black artists to explore spirituality and culture in contemporary art. Fawunda’s performance, free, will be accompanied by a viewing of her film the cleanse. The museum is located in Hartford, CT, and Afrocosmologies will run from October 19, 2019–January 20, 2020.


Previously, at the Assembly Room in New York, NY, Fawundu presented with the group MAD from August 9–September 8, 2019. There, she showed work in which she “incorporates fragments of American flags, hair and textiles, along with personally significant patterns, objects and fibers, to complete a whole figure from parts.” This show also featured work by Columbia Visual Arts mentor, Kiki Smith


With another group exhibition, Fawunda’s work is currently on display at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, GA with The Artist As Muse. In this exhibit, artists question what it means to draw a self-portrait. Using this starting point, they interrogate issues such as ego, labor, technology, identity politics and family. This exhibit is on view August 1–October 5, 2019 at Gutstein Gallery.