Nesaika (1976)

by John Rhoden (1918 - 2001)

Photo Caption: Photo Caitlin Martin @ 2014 for the Association for Public Art
  • Title

    Nesaika

  • Artist

    John Rhoden (1918 - 2001)

  • Year

    1976

  • Location

    African American Museum in Philadelphia, 7th and Arch Streets

  • Medium

    Bronze, on brick base

  • Dimensions

    Height 9′, width 2'7", depth 2' (base height 3′, width 5')

  • Themes

    Black and African American Themes and Artists

Commissioned by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority

Owned by the African American Museum in Philadelphia

At A Glance

  • Commissioned as part of the Redevelopment Authority’s 1% program

  • Cast by the age-old cire perdue (lost wax) process known on the western coast of Africa

  • Artist John Rhoden, a black American sculptor, wanted to express both the African and the American aspects of the museum’s theme

Nesaika by John Rhoden
Photo Maxine Mendoza © 2008 for the Association for Public Art.

An official project of the bicentennial celebration, the African American Museum in Philadelphia opened to the public in 1976, a few days after the unveiling of John Rhoden’s Nesaika. Rhoden, an African American sculptor, wanted to express both the African and the American aspects of the museum’s theme. The forms of Nesaika clearly suggest the traditional sculptures of Africa; the title, however, derives from a word meaning “we,” “us,” or “our” in the Chinook Indian trade language of America’s West Coast. In merging elements from the two continents, Rhoden also hoped to indicate the fundamental unity of all minorities.

Nesaika was commissioned as part of the Redevelopment Authority’s Percent for Art program. The bronze was cast by the age-old cire perdue (lost wax) process known on the western coast of Africa. According to Rhoden, the mask-like image at the top symbolizes “the wholeness of the shape of the universe.” Also at the museum is Reginald Beauchamp’s Whispering Bells: A Tribute to Crispus Attucks (1976).

Adapted from Public Art in Philadelphia by Penny Balkin Bach (Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1992).

 

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