MLK Commemoration: Art Exhibit
1/21/2013, 1:30 pm
Free and Open to the Public
Location: Black Cultural Center (Google map of this location)
Art Exhibit: A Story of Hope by Ndume Olatushani
Ndume Olatushani is a self-taught artist who discovered his passion for painting while on death row. Wrongly convicted of murder in Memphis in 1985, Ndume spent 20 years on death row, and another 8 years in prison, before he was freed.
A court finally overturned his conviction in 2011 in the face of overwhelming proof that the prosecutors in his case had buried a mountain of evidence demonstrating Ndume's innocence. The bulk of the buried evidence showed that an entirely different group of suspects were the real perpetrators of the crime. On June 1, 2012, Ndume Olatushani he walked out of the Memphis jail a free man. While in solitary confinement on death row, Ndume picked up a pencil and began sketching portraits. Over time, he began experimenting with paint. Rather than try to capture the tragic images of prison life, Ndume let his mind wander outside of his 6 by 10 foot death cell. He fleetingly escaped the monochrome, concrete of his world by filling his canvases with the color and beauty of Africa.
All of the paintings in this exhibit were created during Ndume's long years behind bars. Though painting was a critical escape during those years, it did not come easily. He was dependent on support from the outside to send him art supplies. And, in his cell, he didnít have an easel or adequate lighting to facilitate his craft. Typically, he sat on his steel bunk and set the canvas board on his lap. Because of the dim light, he sometimes needed to use a magnifying glass when working on detailed portions of his work.
Since his release from prison in June of 2012, Ndume has been busy spending time with family and just relishing all of the ordinary things that most of us take for granted. He refuses to be consumed by bitterness for what happened to him. Having faced the very real prospect of death at the hands of the state, he deeply appreciates the amazing gift of each day he is alive and free.
Ndume feels strongly about not forgetting all the men he left behind in prison. He is deeply committed to working for criminal justice reform. He recently began working as an organizer with the Children's Defense Fund to help challenge polices resulting in the mass incarceration of people of color.