A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden
African link to cemetery USA studied
JMU professor cites headstones in national forest in examining whether traditions survived intact
BY CALVIN R.TRICE found at TIMES-DISPATCH on Mar 21, 2004
The headstones bore markings that traced directly back to ideograms in West Africa - symbolic engravings that even some current Africans can recognize at first glance, Malcolm-Woods said.
"This is a very big thing for people who work in diaspora studies and to the argument over whether there were any African traditions in North America," Malcolm-Woods said. "To actually see real African ideograms in the [United States] is proof that there were."
Malcolm-Woods, 54, is a history and art history doctoral candidate at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She teaches art history at JMU while working on her doctoral thesis.
An oil painter with six grown children, she first began studying African art and engravings while working on her master's in art history in 1997.
Malcolm-Woods received a seed grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities to plan a study and restoration of the site. She wants to learn about the family buried there and eventually write about the last woman interred, she said.
Since the time of the site's discovery, some of the headstones have apparently been stolen. Both Malcolm-Woods and Tolley are wary of the cemetery being disturbed further. Tolley warned that cemetery theft or destruction is a criminal offense.
"We have to save these for future generations," she said. "They're very, very precious."
Read also Virginia Union University Museum
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts acquires significant African art
Contact Calvin R. Trice at (540) 574-9977 or ctrice*timesdispatch.com
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