School of Architecture & Planning Professor Leads Cultural Envoy to London to Present Black Artists Exhibit to Queen of England
Trip Designed to Create Global Awareness of Centuries-Old Tradition of African Artwork Hailing from Maryland and Antigua
As part of an international effort to share the love and wonder of unique works of art abroad, Barbara Paca, Ph.D., an adjunct professor of Architecture and Environmental Design in Morgan State University’s School of Architecture and Planning, recently lead an envoy to London to present Her Majesty, Queen Camilla, with a specially curated exhibit featuring the works of five Black female artists from Maryland and Antigua. The exhibition features ancient Caribbean art of seed work and other unique crafts.
As Cultural Envoy to Antigua and Barbuda, Dr. Paca privately funded the cultural exchange herself, using her salary from Morgan State and fees as a curator in London. Paca is also the founder of Water’s Edge Museum on the Eastern Shore in Oxford, Maryland. Currently, the museum features an exhibit of the elaborate craftsmanship, showcasing the artwork and its connection between the Caribbean and Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
First practiced by enslaved African women in Antigua and Barbuda, seed work is a dying art that involves collecting wild tamarind seeds that grow on the islands and stitching the seeds to create earrings, mats, and belts. It is said that while crafting the items, African women prayed for strength and resilience, endowing them with what some believe is talismanic value. After emancipation, it became a source of income for many women, leading to economic empowerment and entrepreneurship. With only five remaining master artisans currently in existence, there is a newfound interest in preserving the practice.
Internationally recognized as an art historian and landscape architect, Dr. Paca launched an exhibit at the Garden Museum in Central London to honor Antiguan artist and environmentalist Frank Walter. Examples of the seed work are on exhibit as a companion exhibition to the Frank Walter show.
Recognizing that the queen would be touring the exhibit, Paca utilized the opportunity to introduce the Queen to seed art and the artists, creating a dialogue about the intangible cultural heritage of Antigua. The cultural envoy included two female artists from the Water’s Edge Museum and three from Antigua. During the six-day trip, the five women participated in seminars, lectures, and symposia on the art of seed work.
Water’s Edge, which exhibits the untold history of Maryland’s founding African American families and the lives they led on the Eastern Shore region over 100 years ago, is the first museum in the nation to honor the founding Black families of America.