Ancestors of the Passage: Works by Imna Arroyo
Inspired by this year’s UConn Reads Selection The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
April 2 – May 4, 2018
“If the Atlantic Ocean were to dry up, a trail of bones would lead from the shores of Africa to the Americas.”
Ancestors of the Passage is a multi-media installation resulting from Puerto Rican-American artist Imna Arroyo’s quest to visualize her heritage. The installation is composed of 27 terracotta ceramic figures, each extending their hands out to the audience from a sea of acrylic canvases and silk fabric. According to the artist, these figures represent the African ancestors who died in the Middle Passage, where millions of people were forcibly transported across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World. The figures are surrounded by 47 black and white collagraphs, which depict the multitudes who witnessed the ancestors’ journey. A digital projection, titled Trail of Bones, further advances the narrative journey suggested in Arroyo’s work. An altar placed in the gallery also pays tribute to the ancestors and allows visitors to become participants by writing a message to their forebears.
The unifying theme of human rights and refugeeism emerges from the UConn Reads selection for the 2017-2018 academic year: The Refugees (2017), a collection of short stories, by Viet Thanh Nguyen.
This exhibition is mounted in collaboration with: The William Benton Museum of Art
About the Artist
Imna Arroyo is an educator, activist and artist. She is a painter, printmaker, papermaker and bookmaker, who also works on multi-media installations. Her artistic work has been devoted to exploring the connections between the African Continent and the Diaspora. She was born in Guayama, Puerto Rico. She studied at La Escuela de Artes Plasticas del Instituto de Cultura in San Juan, Puerto Rico and obtained her BFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York and her MFA from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. She also studied other printmaking techniques at the Tamarind Institute, New Mexico, the New York University Printmaking Studio, the University of Guanajuato, Mexico and Non-toxic Printmaking Methods at the Canadian School for Non-Toxic Printmaking, Summer International Printmaking Workshop, and Grande Prairie Regional College, Alberta, Canada. Her work is included in numerous public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art Library; Franklin Furnace Artist Book Collection; Schomberg Center for Research and Black Culture, NY; Yale University Art Gallery, CT; and Casa de las Americas and the Museum Casa Africa, Habana, Cuba.
Arroyo is currently a Professor of Art at Eastern Connecticut State University where she chaired the Visual Arts Department. She is the recipient of numerous awards and grants. In 2010 she received the title of Connecticut State University (CSU) Professor in recognition of her teaching, mentorship and nationally and internationally acclaimed artistic achievements. In 2007, she received the honorary title of Chief Yeye Agboola of Ido Osun (Chief Mother of the Garden of Honor) in recognition of selfless service to enrich the Ido-Osun Kingdom. This honor was conferred by his Royal Majesty Aderemi Adeen Adeniyi-Adedapo, Ido-Osun, Nigeria. She received the Distinguished Faculty Award from Eastern in 2008 and an Excellence Award in 2000 for creativity and scholarship. She is the recipient of the 2003 Steinkraus-Cohen Memorial Outstanding Women of Connecticut Award, in recognition of achievements and dedication to public service under the auspices of the United Nations Association of the USA (Connecticut, Southwestern Chapter) and UNIFEM-Connecticut. She was awarded the 2012 Outstanding Latino Cultural Award from the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education for artistic achievements that have contributed significantly to the understanding of Latino culture.
Arroyo has exhibited extensively throughout the United States, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Panama, Mexico and the Czech Republic. In 2011, she was invited to participate in The Living Legacy of 30 Million Untold Stories for the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
Image Credit: Ancestors of the Passage: Journey Through the Middle Passage. Instillation by Imna Arroyo. 2018. Courtesy of the Artist.