Afro-surrealist Expressionist painter Adjani Okpu-Egbe has left a marker and testimony of his time at Stony Point Center in the form of a mural on the west end of the Hickory Building. Crafted with Adjani's signature head-and-shoulders style, the mural depicts a humanoid figure looking to the south with a fish-like creature resting on his head. It is entitled "Self-Portrait as Eye Witness."
Formerly the home of the Cricketown Day School, Hickory now houses a Kidspace and a meeting/workspace for SPC volunteers and the Community of Living Traditions. The mural faces the playground and swingset, which is well used by guests of all ages. Guests meeting in Maple A and Conference Room A will also have a birds-eye view of the mural.
Below is the artist's statement on the intention behind the mural.
“Self-Portrait as Eye Witness”
In a diverse community that prides itself in the tolerance and promotion of political, cultural diversity and interdependence, it could be challenging to come to a compromise that reflects everyone’s idea of what a piece of mural should convey. I have chosen the themes below because to me, they are in resonance with the energy that I have found hovering over Stony Point Center and that encompasses: tolerance, resilience, peace, hard work, nonviolence, activism, awareness, coexistence, loyalty, love, volunteering, justice, mutual respect, continuous education, and elements of radical hospitality.
These values have been identified not only because they are conspicuously manifested within the SPC community, but also because communities back home in Ambazonia exude similar traits. Despite having very little for themselves compared to the affluence of the Hudson Valley, my people's hospitable nature enables them to share much with others. I consider that “radical hospitality” and it makes a triangular connection between the mural, communities in Ambazonia, and our shared ethics, irrespective of cultural differences or where we live in the world.
These are universal values that I have had the opportunity to witness firsthand as practiced by members of the SPC community, facilitated by Kitty and Rick Ufford-Chase and Paula Sandusky. Likewise, in Ambazonia as made real by humanitarians like the movement’s leader Sisiku Julius Ayuk-Tabe, The Nera 10 and Penn Terence Khan -- all of whom are Prisoners of Conscience illegally locked up in the regime’s maximum security prison in Kondengui, Yaoundé for standing up against dictatorship, occupation and neocolonialism.
Good people are good people, and this remains the case even at times that their intentions do not meet their actions -- and the main figure in the mural intends to represent that. The angle of the head and the body are neither align nor natural, just like challenges in real life that are so severe that they push us out of shape and our comfort zones to seek alignment with like-minded people and sometimes compromise with those we don’t get on with in order to find mutually beneficial solutions to common problems. This would enable us maximize our inputs in whatever we chose to do, how we chose to do it and whoever we chose to do it with. This process doesn’t happen in isolation of the limits and inequality that life hands us -- which are symbolized in the mural by the “unequal shoulders” seen in the main figure. "No shoulders are equal," my mother used to say" — meaning, don't waste your time comparing yourself with others, but move forward with awareness and resolve.
The fish above his head has several layers of meaning:
— At a biographical level, fish are a main source of protein in the Ambazonian diet, something I grew up aware of as my late aunt was a fishmonger and community leader. Fish bring strength to people.
— The fish is a main symbol of Roman Catholicism, the religion I was raised in, symbolizing charity. But this fish is struggling with the awareness of religious institutions whose support to their communities isn’t reflective of the support they get from their congregations. In Ambazonia, the poorest people are often the most loyal and dedicated members of the church, and I grew up aware of this distorted charity as a frequent marker of organized religion.
— This fish also symbolizes resilience, awareness and protection in the face of adversity. The fact that he has legs points to the power of possibilities. The fierce double heads emphasizes that people who are “givers” most seek ways to protect themselves because irrespective of their intentions, they cannot be naive to the fact that not everyone would be appreciative of who they are, what they do or intend to do. If “givers” do not protect themselves, “takers” will abuse their generosity and make a meal out of their hospitality. All givers need to be aware that they aren’t a meal, they are providers of meals and as such need to stay aware and focused in order to fulfill their mission without being distracted by those they intend to serve.
Resting on the head, this fish reminds and draws forth strength, awareness, resilience, possibility, and protection.
Adjani Okpu-Egbe, July 2019