New Museum Connects Children To African Heritage
Mori Johnson, Morgan State University SCOM Student | 11/1/2019, 6 a.m.
A celebration at The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Pimlico Road Arts and Community Center introduced the Sankofa Children’s Museum of African Cultures to the Park Heights area. More than 70 guests attended the event, dressed in their African attire, on Saturday October 26, 2019.
The event took place in the museum’s showroom, where exhibits of African tribal masks, clothing, and musical instruments surrounded the tables where guests sat. Guests experienced African cuisine like jollof, fried, and white rice, waakye stew, plantain, fried and baked fish, chicken, mixed vegetables, peanut butter soup along with other traditional treats.
WEAA’s 88.9 FM, Sandy Mallory hosted the affair as she sat in her native blue African attire alongside museum founder, Esther “Mama Kiki” Armstrong.
A Ghanian native, Armstrong moved to Maryland and opened the Sankofa African and World Bazaar gift shop in 1994.
“I am aware of how little information, true information there is in our communities about Africa,” said Armstrong. “I found that there are people who really like the culture but don’t know where to get the information.”
Jim Clemmer, Armstrong’s husband is the museum curator. He studied tribal art and is the one who selects which pieces will be showcased.
“This piece is the mwana pwo, which means a beautiful young maiden, fully trained and ready for marriage,” Clemmer explained as he stood next to the case where the Angolan mask sat.
African art and decorations adorn the walls. The first room, which was The Art Room, honored the generosity of the Ferris Family Foundation.
Young visitors to the museum will be able to play and create art. Instruments are there for children to test their musical skills. A large floor puzzle in the shape of Africa is there to help children connect to the continent.
“We are reaching out to schools so they can plan school trips around the museum,” said Armstrong. “We want to incorporate this into their curriculum, so children will be learning history and geography in a fun way and won’t even realize that they are learning.”
During their visit to the children’s museum guests also can visit the gift shop. The gift shop boasts authentic, traditional West African clothing, jewelry, home decorations, works of art, and a story to go with each piece.
“We are not just selling things in my shop, we are trying to educate,” she said. As she touched the patterns on her gown, Armstrong went on to say, “If you want this, I am going to tell you the history of it.”
Armstong said Sankofa is a symbol that comes from the Ashanti tribe in Ghana. It is a bird that resembles a peacock, in the sense that it is colorful and has a long neck. It stands with its head facing backwards while his feet are faced forward. This is the logo for the gift shop, and according to the company's website, it is a reminder that people need to know and understand their past, so they are able to move forward.
The museum will host its grand opening in February as part of Black History Month.
Admission into the museum is $10.
For more information on how to become a volunteer or to donate to support the museum, call (410) 366-0886.