Note: This component of the project yet remains unrealized in physical form.
THE HOOD GROWS WALLS
The wall is rigid, formulaic, programmed.
The wall is not pretty, fancy, intricate
It is a somber reminder of the realities in which we find ourselves
The wall is familiar
The wall is what you can handle
The wall is not intimidating
It is a divider, a separator, a barrier.
You are either on the right side of it or on the wrong side.
There is no in-between
The wall is 6 feet tall. Only a few can see over it
The wall is safe
The wall blends in
The wall cannot easily be destroyed
Its parts will not be pilfered at night
The wall can facilitate a stage
The wall can be private or public
The wall is a canvas
A surface on which to scar your frustrations, your anger, your aggression, your grief.
Don’t worry, the wall can take it all
The wall is self-reinforcing
The more the wall is resisted, the more powerful it becomes.
The wall is relevant for our time
It is a metaphor of our times, our world, our city, our hood
The hood grows walls
– Kofi Akakpo.
The second structural installation proposal of this project would involve building a brick wall on the vacant lot at Cumberland and 10th. The steps will be as follows:
1. Build a wall by galvanizing people in the neighborhood to come together.
2. Organize creative activities around the wall.
3. Encourage people to ‘scar’ the wall with their messages of frustration, happiness, anxiety, poetry, etc.
4. Break down the wall.
1. BUILDING A WALL
Why A Wall?
Our initial intention was to design an art piece that can facilitate several communal activities, is adaptable and mobile. In one of the several artist talks organized at Kwasi’s (the artist’s) residence, one participant made a comment about creating art for effect and not simply art to make commentary. But art has never had an effect that didn’t make commentary so the goal should be to have an effect while making commentary. That is precisely what we decided to do.
We came up with the idea of the wall from our regular meetings with neighbourhood collaborators where the desire was expressed to have a communal space. It did not need to be a building. After further discussions we settled on the idea of the wall. We also played with the idea that people in the neighborhood could say “let’s go to the wall” when they needed a place to meet to address their issues and vent their frustrations. The wall could therefore be both symbolic and utilitarian.
How The Wall Will Be Built
Historically, the process of building has been a communal one. Our process is to interact with people in the neighborhood and engage their help in building this communal wall. It is important to note that getting people to come together and build is the main aim of the project and not necessarily what is built.
The bricks for the wall are going to be sourced from demolished and collapsed buildings in the neighborhood. These bricks hold the memories of the families that lived in those houses before. The wall therefore becomes a “wall of memories”. As one neighborhood artist described it, the process was symbolic of trying to build the neighborhood back up. We will have a professional engineer or builder on site at all times. The process will also involve music and food, to help create a fun and inviting atmosphere during the building process for all who are involved.
2. ORGANIZING ACTIVITIES AT THE WALL
In addition to being a canvas for artistic expression by neighborhood artists, the wall can also host a variety of events. The wall can facilitate a stage for performances. It will be used to host some of the open mic events currently held at Ile Ife park in North Philadelphia further helping to extend the buffer The Village provides in the neighborhood. It can also hold artistic installations that can be displayed to the neighborhood.
The wall is designed as a separator, but we can flip that relationship and make it a place of privacy, a place where we can all speak candidly about the state of our community and discuss ways to change it.
3. SCARRING THE WALL
The act of scarring the wall is important as a means of establishing the wall as a symbol of oppression and as a divider. Neighborhood residents will be invited to write, scribble, paint, draw, spray or express in any form they wish all the things that frustrate them, all the things they wish to get rid of, all the baggage they want to unload. THE WALL HAS TO BE STRONG, MADE OF MASONRY SO IT CAN CARRY THE WEIGHT OF ALL THESE.
The wall, at the end of the residency, may be broken down by the collaborators…
Note: “The hood grows walls” is a metaphor borrowed from Village founding artist James “Big Man” Maxton. The extrapolation of the metaphor manifested in the site-specific component of the project and recorded audio conversations about notions of “the hood” with interlocutors from various parts of Philadelphia.
Kofi Akakpo Bio:
Kofi Akakpo is a designer, writer and poet who currently lives in Columbus, Ohio. He studied architecture at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana between 2004 to 2008. He left to work with Joe Ossae-Addo, principal architect at Constructs LLC, where he was greatly influenced by the “inno-native” approach to design before moving to the United States. Kofi has worked on architectural projects in Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Finland and the United States. He has also worked as a contrabuting writer for Bleacher Report and as a freelance designer and architectural visualizer. Kofi is currently enrolled at the Knowlton School of Architecture at the Ohio State University. He is currently working on a project that explores how spaces can retain their unique cultural identity in an increasingly multicultural world.