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Odum dances with books

Written by: John Preer

This past Monday Valdosta State University made an addition to the growing art selection that can be found throughout Odum Library.

The newest addition to Odum Library’s collection is courtesy of artist Amalia Amaki.  Amaki is a well-known artist who has had her work exhibited across the nation as well as in many international venues. The Georgia native has other exhibits in Europe, South America, and Africa.

The African style statues resemble traditional wooden carvings from the eastern region of Africa.  Over thirty pieces are on display on the third floor in Odum Library.  In addition to the sculptures on display, the collection also features tapestries of field drawings by Valdosta artist, Elantu Veovode. VSU kept with the idea of tying the pieces back to the university in some way.  Four of the artists featured in the exhibit were former VSU students who have gone on to be professionals in their field.

Along with Amaki’s contribution of a signature piece entitled “Dances with Books” to Odum’s south entrance, a collection of donated African-American literature.  “Dances with Books” is now a permanent fixture in the alcove near Odum’s south entrance.

The work depicts two small children gleefully dancing on books.  One of those books happens to be a biography of a longtime supporter and donor, William H. Mobley.  Through the combined efforts of VSU’s art fund and Mobley’s family donations, this tribute to a revered benefactor was erected.  Amaki is a professor of art history and visual studies at the University of Alabama, the university responsible for donating the books to the exhibit.

Amaki also serves as curator of the Paul R. Jones Art Collection in the University of Alabama.  This particular art collection happens to be one of the largest collections of African-American art in the world.

The other sculptures on display are a part of the Songye African Art collection and feature tribal masks and figures from Congo, Africa.  The pieces have had an interesting journey to get to their current home in Odum Library.

They were actually confiscated from a smuggler in Hartsfield Jackson airport by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.  It might seem strange that a department that handles fish and other wild life would be involved with art smuggling, but there is an interesting twist to the story.  Some of the pieces featured materials from endangered species.

As a result those specific items were removed from the statues.  These items were later donated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to the Valdosta State University Archives.

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