City hosts Black History Month exhibit
Explore the past, culture through art
Covington Mayor Kim Carter proclaimed the month of February as Black History Month at the opening of the month-long 2008 Black History Art Exhibit located at City Hall.
“Each year during Black History Month, all Americans are encouraged to reflect upon and explore the history and culture of black Americans,” Carter said, “in order that we may discover anew and never forget this great treasure of history about the triumph of human will and spirit.”
City Council members Ocie Franklin, Hawnethia Williams and Janet Goodman also attended the exhibit opening.
“We have three of the best local African-American historians in town in our council members,” Carter said.
The artwork displayed in the lobby of City Hall was created by local black artists Ernie Callaway and Mary Thompson.
Callaway has brought his large clay heads to the display for six years. Each year the heads, which each take approximately 160 hours to make, are different.
“Once I start on one it’s just there,” Callaway said. “It’s like therapy.”
Each has different features, glazes, textures or colors.
“I look at people and I see their features,” Callaway said, “and then I just borrow parts.”
For this year’s exhibit, he also carved a head out of a block of 800-year-old wood that once served as a beam in a barn.
Callaway first began sculpting in 1983 when he was a custodian at Mercer University in Macon. An art student had disposed of a large chunk of clay and Callaway took it into a closet and made his first sculpture.
Upon seeing his affinity with clay, Mercer art professors allowed him to sit in on classes.
Last year Callaway also began making necklaces out of fallen deer antlers. He placed a necklace on each of the six heads in the exhibit.
“That way it’s something being used and the animal is not hurt,” Callaway said.
For a second year, he brought almost twenty hand-carved canes and walking sticks to the exhibit. He first made one for a woman in Macon who requested his craftsmanship.
“I said ‘I’ve never made one,’” Callaway said, “and she said ‘but you can.’”
After mulling her words over and over in his head, he finally made one for her. Today he has carved more than 100.
“Nature’s already done the art,” Callaway said. “I just need to modify what’s already there.”
Mary Thompson has long been a collector of historical items.
This year, her fourth displaying her items, she decided to make themed collages of her photographs and magazine clippings. Some of the themes include jazz, blues, Northern Migration, the barber shop, slavery, Reconstruction and sports.
Thompson began showing her historical items after helping her son with a black history project for school. Several teachers wanted her to come to their class to explain the information presented in the project.
“I knew that I had to continue because I had so much stuff,” Thompson said. “I felt like it needed to be seen by more people than me.”
She said she enjoys sharing her collection with others and thinks retelling stories of the past is highly important to forming a culture’s identity and to future progress.
Tomorrow she will give a black history presentation at 7 p.m. at the Newton County Library where she will walk attendees from Africa to 2008.
“Even if I didn’t open my mouth, my exhibit tells a story,” Thompson said.
Callaway agreed with Thompson that everyone needs to be willing to educate younger generations on what happened before they arrived.
Carter thanked Callaway and Thompson for tirelessly giving support to the preservation of local black history.
“The City of Covington desires to recognize the dedicated and often untold efforts of black men and women everywhere,” Carter said, “for their contributions toward the creation of the healthy, diverse and culturally rich American way of life that we all enjoy today.”
Togetherl: Just moments after Covington Mayor Kim Carter signed a Black History Month Proclamation Thursday afternoon, Covington City Council members gathered with the artists featured in the Black History Month Display at the Covington City Hall. Pictured are Councilwoman Ocie Franklin, left, artist Ernie Callaway, Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams, Carter, artist/historian Mary Thompson and Councilwoman Janet Goodman.