Adama Delphine Fawundu

I can trace my family’s history several generations back to a small island off the coast of Sierra Leone, West Africa named Mano.  This makes me curious about the spiritual, cultural, and ideological pre-colonial ways of being that was disrupted by voluntary immigration, colonialism, and distorted within the African Diaspora through oppressive systems stemming from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

As the only child in my immediate family born in America, my connections to Sierra Leone, was through stories of the place where my Mende father was born and my mother was raised as a Krio (freed Diasporan Africans who settled in Freetown).  In addition to the day-to-day experience of growing up Catholic in a British Colony, I heard mystical stories of medicine men, Bondo Nomoli’s (masked beings), and Mami Wata, a shape shifting water goddess who only a few get to see.   I learned the idea that ancestral spirits were to be respected as they cleared the way for the living.  Libations, Sarra (cooking for the dead and small personal sacrifices) were normal activities in my home even though my parents were firm Catholics.  Growing up, my family were proud Sierra Leoneans, my dad often reminded me that we come from a lineage of Mende chiefs.  However, this was quite different from the stereotypical ‘African’ identity that I was exposed to during my schooling and in the American media.  Through family, I was introduced to this complex place with many different ethnicities, languages, foods and traditional practices, but, outside of family, my heritage was homogenized into a negative African identity.

My understandings of family cultural traditions have always been a merge between traditional Mende beliefs and Westernized values.  Family gifts of colorful batik fabrics handmade by my deceased Grandma Adama and her daughter Mary sustained my connection to my ancestral home.  Over the past year I’ve been obsessing over patterns and layers in my practice and have incorporated these fabrics into my works. My obsession stems from an inner desire to trace layers of complex and distorted histories, and uncover personal and universal cultural patterns that are present within myself and the African Diaspora.  Although, it is impossible to make perfect sense out of the pure pre-colonial identities living within my psyche, I persist on this never ending journey using myself as the main character in most of my works.

In my most recent installation, The Sacred Star of Isis and other Stories. I created an environment manifesting conversations between African deities and the diaspora.  These deities have shape shifted and traveled throughout space and time, while also existing in the true world, the world that we humans do not have full access to.  This understanding gives me the freedom to create various iterations of these beings as they interfere, interact, intersect and confront social and cultural ways of the African diasporas past, present and future.

The mask, has a strong presence in Mende culture and is very important in my work as it is a powerful tool for me to manipulate identity.  I use photographs and video installation to interact with the idea of masking through layering of sounds (contemporary hip/trap, traditional Mende drumming), text, fabric patterns, hair, cowrie shells, straw, and cotton.

Education: MFA Visual Arts, School of the Arts, Columbia University 2018

Select Exhibitions:

ReSignifications: European Blackamoors, Africana Readings, a collateral event of the MANIFESTA European Biennial of Contemporary Art, Palermo, Italy
Refraction: New Photography from Africa & It’s Diaspora, Steven Kasher Gallery, MFA Thesis Show, Columbia University, The Wallach Gallery at Columbia Lenfest


Pulse Play,A Project for an Empty Space + Pulse Art Fair, Miami Beach, Fl COMM|ALT|SHIFT: An exhibition of International Video Art,Aljira, A Center for Contemporary Art
Black Magic: AfroPasts/AfroFutures, Honfleur Gallery, Anacostia, DC

Black Magic: AfroPasts/AfroFutures, Corridor Art Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
Dandy Lion: Articulating a Re(de)fined Black Masculine Identity American History & Culture, Brighton Photo Biennial, UK
Framing Beauty Curated by Dr. Deborah Willis, The Grunwald Gallery at Indiana University

Diverse Works: Director’s Choice 1997-2015, The Brooklyn Museum of Art
Princes, Powers, Suits and Ties: The Dandy Lion Project, The Silver Eye Center for Photography, Pittsburgh
Black Portraiture[s]:Imagining the Black Body and Re-staging Histories, Villa La Pietra, Florence, Italy
Dandy Lion:Articulating a Re(de)fined Black Masculine Identity American History & Culture, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IL

Rudin Prize Nominees (four artist), Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL Lagos Photo Festival, Lagos, Nigeria

Fellowships and Residencies:
BRICWorkspace Artist-in-Residence (Fall), Brooklyn NY

ADAMA DELPHINE FAWUNDU Visual Artist 49 Crown Street #6C • Brooklyn, NY 11225 • Telephone 646.284.2906

Puffin Foundation Artist Grant, Fine Arts
Dean’s Travel Grant, (Nigeria) Columbia University School of the Arts
Morty Frank Printmaking Fellowship, Columbia University School of the Arts

Dean’s Travel Grant, (Sierra Leone) Columbia University School of the Arts Visual Arts Fellowship, Columbia University School of the Arts

New York Foundation for the Arts, Artist Fellowship Award in Photography

Norton Museum Rudin Prize Nominee, West Palm Beach, Florida
Nominated by Dr. Deborah Willis for the 2014 Norton Museum Rudin Prize for Emerging Photographers. Nomination included a three-month exhibit at the Norton Museum of Art. The African Artists Foundation/Lagos Photo – Lagos, Nigeria Invited to participate as an Artist-in-Residence to pursue personal projects
Brooklyn Arts Council Awarded a grant to develop collaborative exhibition and workshop series “I AM HERE: Safe Spaces for Girls of Color” at the Skylight Gallery in Brooklyn, New York.


MFON: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora, Co-Founder/Author of the book/journal, 2018

Fashioning Black Masculinity: The Origins of the Dandy Lion Project, by Shantrelle P. Lewis, Nka Journal of Contemporary Art, Volume 2015, Number 37: 54-61

Africa Under the Prism: Contemporary African Photography from LagosPhoto Festival, Texts by Joseph Gergel, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Azu Nwagbogu, Marc Prüst, Sahara Group, HATJE CANTZ, 2015


Berg, Tatiana. “Must-See Art Guide: New York,

This week’s guide features John

Baldessari, Ghada Amer, Marlene Dumas, and more. ArtNews, May 3, 2018

ADAMA DELPHINE FAWUNDU Visual Artist 49 Crown Street #6C • Brooklyn, NY 11225 • Telephone 646.284.2906

Chen, Min. “Artist Adama Delphine Fawundu Fights the Power: Watch an exclusive clip from the artist’s short film—one of nine video and digital works at this year’s Play Miami Beach, the new media showcase of Pulse Contemporary Art Fair.” Surface Magazine, October 6, 2017

Isama, Antoinette. “These Photographers From Africa and Its Diaspora Expose the Complex Link Between Black Stereotypes and Black Reality,” OkayAfrica, April 18, 2018

Jael, Llana. “Exhibition Review: Refraction: New Photography of Africa and its Diaspora,” MUSEE: Vangard of Photography Culture, April 27, 2018

Jenkins, Mark, “In the galleries, ‘Afrofuturism,’defined in the moment by nine artists.” The Washington Post, September 7, 2017

Rodney, Seph. “Photographers Connect Africa’s Diaspora Back to the Continent, A group of contemporary artists re-imagine the African Diaspora through references to landscape, masks, clothes, and adornments.” Hyperallergic, June 1, 2018

Rosen, Sara. “The Angolan artist who uses the power of photography to overcome trauma.” Dazed, April 23, 2018

Nwakanma, Adaku. “An Exhibition in New York Seeks to Re-connect a Multitude of Black Histories and Identities.” The Nerve Africa, April 19, 2018

Small, Zachary. “Columbia University MFA Students Put on a Strong Thesis Show Despite Department Woes” Hyperallergic, May 16, 2018