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Saturday, March 6, 2021

Art exhibit graphically depicts the nature of Black-on-Black violence

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The Central Library unveiled “Kin Killin’ Kin,” a powerful, thought-provoking art exhibit that depicts graphic images of the impact gun violence has on the African-American community. The unveiling of Kin comes on the heels of one of the most violent years Indianapolis has seen.

In commemoration, the names of the slain were read aloud at a ceremony preceding the opening of the exhibition. Dexter Smith, Michael Hall, Perry Renn…the names continued as a single bell was rang in the background adding to the otherwise silent and solemn feeling of the moment.

“I was taught to use the arts as human development, more so than just putting pictures up on the wall,” said exhibit curator Willis “Bing” Davis as he addressed a crowd at the opening. “This exhibit is probably one of the most powerful exhibits because (James Pate) uses such depth and skill to depict an issue that is so close to home.”

James Pate, the artist who created “Kin Killin’ Kin,” started working on the series in 2000 and drew the parallel between Blacks killing Blacks to the Ku Klux Klan after conversing with others in his community in Dayton, Ohio about the amount of violence they were currently experiencing.

“It is often said that we (African-Americans), in a strange fruit kind of way, are doing the business of the KKK with our Black-on-Black violence,” said Pate in a statement on his work. “Every piece is a moment of silence and dedication to all the people who have to deal directly with our losses.”

Davis said in the beginning, he and Pate received some opposition from various community leaders including a judge who felt the images were too graphic for public consumption, particularly school-aged children.

The exhibit, which is a part of the Indianapolis Public Library’s Stand4Peace initiative, consists of 13 images of various tragic occurrences including drive-by shootings conducted by Black men dressed in a mix of athletic gear and Ku Klux Klan style garb.

One drawing depicts a young man whose nose has been blown off by a bullet, in a pose eerily similar to the Great Sphinx of Giza. Some of the pieces are shrouded in yellow crime scene tape and the floor surrounding them is scattered with bullet casings. Newspaper clippings and a wire fence holding tags that bear the names of murder victims are also part of the exhibit.

Davis, who currently serves as the director of the Shango Center for the Study of African American Art and Culture, felt the works were too important to keep hidden from sight. “It’s too late, we can’t wait,” he said. “We’ve got to save our kids.”

Visitors of Kin Killin’ Kin are encouraged to sign the Stand4Peace community declaration, and view a video presentation of youth sharing their personal reactions through art and poetry. The exhibit is on display now through September 28 at Central Library, 40 E. St. Clair St.

For more information, visit imcpl.org.

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