Chicago, IL | 1992
While many of Akinlana's projects were done in collaboration with the communities they are in, MEMORY MASKS stands out as one that was particularly beneficial to the local people of the area. Located in Chicago, this piece was done with the aim of teaching the members of the community to "do for self," a cornerstone of Akinlana's philosophy of life. When creating the project, Akinlana and his team not only designed and painted, but they also raised $500 to teach members of the community how to make their own masks, which they could then sell. Their efforts to share the skills of entrepreneurialism directly benefitted the community, which had a high population of people dependent on federal aid. One of the community members took the carpentry skills she learned and began her own business making Kwanzaa gifts.
MEMORY MASKS consists of three panels which reflect the different cultural heritages of the people who reside in the area: "The Pyramid Builder," which represents African American culture,"La Libertad," which represents Latino culture, and "The Worker," which represents European culture. If you look carefully, you will see three distinct African mask forms in each panel. Each panel of Memory Masks is an 8 ft x 8 ft acrylic. They were commissioned by and are located at the Boulevard Arts Center at 6011 S Justine.