They’re a special place full of mystery. A place where great discoveries are made and my parent’s attic was no different. It was unfinished, dark, hot and had an oddly sweet smell. My boundless curiosity drove me to spend hours there sifting through photos. There were plenty of family photos, some city scenes that captured life as an African American in New York, but mostly, pictures form the Dar. Boxes of them, mostly black and white photos on contact sheets and full-page prints stored carelessly. Part of the excitement was not knowing what I’d pull from the pile next. I think what kept me coming back was the artist in me. I was drawn to these beautifully composed black and white photos that filled my young heart with nostalgia of a time not long passed. There were photos of people and events, some I knew and some I never witnessed, but felt I possessed all rights of ownership to because of course, my roots were firmly fixed in the subjects of those captured images.
Shortly after high school, I began to take my own art more seriously and started creating bodies of work and exhibiting whether it was studio art or fashion. I made connections with local artist and galleries in Syracuse, New York who helped materialize my ideas and to them, I’m truly grateful. Never forgetting those black and white photos of the Dar, I had the idea of doing an exhibit; a family art exhibit to be exact. Many moons later, I ran the idea by Cjala Surratt, a family friend who was employed at a local gallery and she got things going. 2008 was the first time the Dar ul Islam Collection was exhibited as a body of work along with a photograph collection by my brother, Sayyid Barbour and my own mixed-media art.
Family Exhibit 2008
Several more exhibits followed and in 2009 I composed a book as a graduation requirement. Of course, the Dar immediately came to mind as the subject of the that project. I published “The Dar-Yasin Mosque”, only for the sake of completing the assignment and sharing my accomplishment with family and friends. That’s when it happened, it took off. Demand for the book grew and I wasn’t ready to deliver. For one, the book was a very short version of a much larger story and two, I was headed into the most difficult period of my life. I needed time, eight years to be exact.
Exhibit, Syracuse University (2009)
MANA Conference, Philadelphia (2008) - My mother, Tunura Barbour and the late, Amina Abdul Haqq viewing the exhibit.
Exhibit, Community Folk Art Center, Syracuse NY (2009)
My parent’s attic looks much different now. It’s been insulated and white painted walls have been added. The crates full of photos have been replaced by file cabinets and archiving tools and are diligently stored as digital files. Now that my father’s retired, he has more time to help and has dedicated countless hours to preserving the collection. Today, I feel so much better presenting his work to you as a more focused and insightful me.
In the attic with Abi (2017)
We would like to thank all who have helped and prayed for the success of this project. Special thanks to Light Work Lab at Syracuse University for digital guidance in a creative and motivational environment. Learn more about them at http://www.lightwork.org/.