Milton Bowen Raises Historical Consciousness Through Art

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By Ibraheem Muhammad

 

Oakland born artist Milton Bowen hopes to educate viewers of his art and raise consciousness of African American history. And, his recent art presentation at Oakstop in Oakland does just that.

 

 

Combining contemporary art and media assemblage, Bowen expressed the importance of African American history and culture through his art.

 

One display underscored the stereotype of “Aint Cha Mamas” as housemaids for the slave master. Bowen’s art communicated that although “Aint Cha Mamas” appeared happy, jolly and gullible, they were also mistreated.

 

Another display characterized the historical victimizing of Black men in America. A third image showed Kunta Kinte, from Alex Haley’s “Roots”, in the middle of a confederate flag, acknowledging the oppression that Black men experience each day.

 

The only way to understand his art is to understand the history behind it, said Bowen.

 

Bowen's art uses the character Kunta Kinte, from Alex Haley's "Roots", in the middle of a confederate flag, to symbolize the oppression that Black men endure every day. Photo by Ibraheem Muhammad.
Bowen’s art uses the character Kunta Kinte, from Alex Haley’s “Roots”, in the middle of a confederate flag, to symbolize the oppression that Black men endure every day. Photo by Ibraheem Muhammad.

“Art is how I express my thoughts. I try to send my message through my art historically,” Bowen said in an interview with the Post.

 

He encourages audiences that don’t necessarily understand the message behind his art to “read, learn, and self-educate or watch a movie based on (African American) history, then you’ll have a better understanding,” he said.

 

Bowen decided to become an artist while attending Oakland Renaissance School of Arts, after being kicked out of Oakland public schools.

 

“I then gained a huge passion for art while attending the Oakland Renaissance School of Arts,” said Bowen.

 

Now as a professional artist, he said, “One of my goals is to reach out to the youth and inspire them to do great things, and to have them understand how the system works, how to avoid trouble and also how to work around situations.”

 

Bowen hopes to gain more exposure of his art and for many people to gain an understanding of the meaning behind it.

 

Bowen shared his favorite quote from Tupac Shakur: “My art may not change the world but can inspire the person that will change the world.”

 

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