Inye Wokoma & Elisheba Johnson, ACES 2021 Keynote Speakers

Listening to the past: Ancestor memory as a tool for understanding your purpose

Inye Wokoma and Elisheba Johnson will show the connected threads of both of their family’s histories of community building and how that has shaped the creation and development of Wa Na wari.  

Sunday, May 16 @ 12 pm

Elisheba Johnson is a curator, poet, public artist and consultant that lives in Seattle, WA. Johnson, who has a BFA from Cornish College of the Arts, was the owner of Faire Gallery Café, a multi-use art space that held art exhibitions, music shows, poetry readings and creative gatherings. For six years Johnson worked at the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture on capacity building initiatives and racial equity in public art. Johnson was a member of the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leaders Network advisory council and has won four Americans for the Arts Public Art Year in Review Awards for her work. She currently co-manages Wa Na Wari, a Black art center in Seattle’s Central Area that uses the arts to build community and resist displacement. 

Inye Wokoma’s family has lived in the Central District since the 1940s and has been entrenched in the neighborhood’s long history of Black art, culture, commerce, worship, institution building and political activism. As an award-winning journalist, filmmaker and visual artist, he explores community life and history through personal narratives. ‘An Elegant Utility’, his on-going multi-media project, maps the evolution of the Seattle’s Black community using oral histories gathered from family members as a reference point. Wa Na Wari’ is the most recent iteration of ‘An Elegant Utility’. It is a collaborative social practice art project designed to fight Black displacement in the Central District. The project transformed one of his family homes into a community space for Black art, social connection and community organizing. Wa Na Wari leverages the Central District’s rich legacy Black cultural life and political activism to organize its remaining Black homeowners and artists to address public land use policies and property ownership issues that are helping accelerate displacement.