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Fictional Meeting Inspires Art Exhibit

Image courtesy of Eric Gottesman
Image courtesy of Eric Gottesman

The writings of Zora Neale Hurston and Ethiopian writer Baalu Girma are the inspiration for a new exhibit opening this evening.

The Encounter: Baalu Girma and Zora Neale Hurston, includes art installations, photos and video.

Hurston, whose work is celebrated in an annual festival in the town of Eatonville, never met Girma, an Ethiopian novelist and journalist who died in 1984.

But artist and co-curator Eric Gottesman said he was inspired by Girma and Hurston, and this exhibit is a way to bring the two writers together.

“What would it mean to imagine an encounter between an African writer and Zora Neale Hurston, who was so invested in the experience of Black culture around the world and the richness of Black culture around the world,” said Gottesman.

He said this fictional, historical meeting between the two writers is  "a way to think about a whole constellation of ideas, around literature and art, around Africa and the diaspora, around legacy, and how individual creative legacies are continued and remembered and made anew by artists reconsidering those legacies now in the present."

Gottesman said Hurston was a groundbreaking novelist and researcher, and he went back and re-read some of her novels before curating this exhibit.

"For me the most interesting part was going back and looking at stuff that I hadn't seen by Zora Neale Hurston before like the work she was doing in Haiti and the field recordings she was making with Alan Lomax that are housed at the Smithsonian museum now."

“I mean she was doing some groundbreaking research on Haitian culture," said Gottesman.

'The word zombie comes from Haiti, and she was doing some of the first research work on zombies and bringing that knowledge of what zombies meant back with her, back here to the states.”

The Encounter is a collaboration between Gottesman and visual art students and faculty at UCF and Rollins College.

Also exhibiting at the gallery:  Christopher Harris, Lynn Linnemeier, Dinorah de Jesús Rodríguez and Reggie Wilson.

It’s part of the annual Zora Festival – and runs through next month.