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Return of the Mecca: The Art of Islam and Hip-Hop Organized as part of the LA/Islam Arts Initiative

Return of the Mecca: The Art of Islam and Hip-Hop
Organized as part of the LA/Islam Arts Initiative

Opening Reception: Saturday, October 4, 3-6pm
Exhibition Dates: October 4-November 22
Gallery Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 12Noon-5pm
Location: The William Grant Still Arts Center, 2520 S. West View Street, Los Angeles 90016

Curated by UC Irvine Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies and African-American Studies Sohail Daulatzai for the LA/Islam Arts Initiative, the exhibition Return of the Mecca: The Art of Islam and Hip-Hop, October 4-November 22, showcases how, from its very foundation until today, hip-hop has been deeply influenced by its relationship to Islam. The exhibit catalog includes a commissioned essay by Chuck D of Public Enemy, an interview with Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def), and images from some of hip-hop’s most legendary photographers. Special programs to be announced for this never-before-seen collection, including dialogues and events with influential guests whose work reflects these histories, will take place throughout the duration of the exhibition, organized in association with DCA’s citywide LA/Islam Arts Initiative. Items in Return of The Mecca also include rare and significant ephemera, archival concert posters, previously unseen documentary and fine art photographs from the 1980s through the present by legendary hip-hop photographers Jamel Shabazz, Ernie Paniccioli, B+, and much more.

Rakim, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Ice Cube, The Wu-Tang Clan, Mos Def, and Lupe Fiasco are some of hip-hop’s most prominent artists. Guided by figures such as Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, as well as the influence of Islam on jazz and the Black Arts Movement of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, on to hip-hop’s Golden Age, and up until today, these Muslim artists and many others are connected to the larger world of Islam. Reflected in everything from LP and cassette artwork and titles, to lyrics and samples to advocating personal, social and political uplift, hip-hop has been deeply influenced by the Nation of Islam, the Five Percent Nation, and Islam in the African diaspora.

Three rooms in the William Grant Still Arts Center, a City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs community arts space located in West Adams, will exhibit a chronology of items documenting a nearly 70-year history that at its root and beyond interweaves jazz, soul, hip-hop, and Islam. A central room will be dedicated to hip-hop foundations of jazz and spoken word artists from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, with materials on Yusef Lateef, Art Blakey, Ahmad Jamal, Gil Scott-Heron, Amiri Baraka, and others. A loop of Golden Age music videos and rare concert footage will be on display in a media room, curated with a focus on Los Angeles, but not forgetting contributions from important hip-hop centers Chicago, New York, and Philly. Over 200 record jackets and cassette J-cards and shells will be compiled wall-to-wall in a room dedicated to an assembled collection spanning the early 1980s through present.

For more information about this event click here.

About the LA/Islam Arts Initiative
This fall, the Los Angeles / Islam Arts Initiative (LA/IAI) brings together nearly 30 cultural institutions throughout Los Angeles to tell various stories of traditional and contemporary art from multiple Islamic regions and their significant global diasporas. LA/IAI is the first-of-its kind, wide-scale citywide initiative on Islamic arts producing and presenting programming such as art exhibitions, panels, discussions, and performances. Anchoring LA/IAI are two connected exhibitions, Doris Duke’s Shangri La: Architecture, Landscape, and Islamic Art and the contemporary art exhibition, Shangri La: Imagined Cities commissioned by the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) to be held at DCA’s Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery (LAMAG) at Barnsdall Park from October 26 to December 28, 2014. Los Angeles’ substantial populations from areas with strong Islamic roots make LA a compelling location for this initiative. LA/IAI casts a wide net, being inclusive and welcoming, with art as its central focus. The term “Islamic art” includes work created by non-Muslim artists from Muslim-dominant countries, work by Muslims creating art in non-Muslim dominant countries, and work by artists culturally influenced by Islam. Designed to build a greater understanding of the role of Islamic arts, LA/IAI seeks to stimulate the global conversation in connection to cultural, political, and social issues. The LA / Islam Arts Initiative is presented by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) with major support from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Community Foundation, the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), the Barnsdall Art Park Foundation, and Sister Cities of Los Angeles Organization.

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