Reconstructed/Reconceptualized Opens Sept. 1 in Crisp Museum


“Najjar Abdul-Musawwir: Reconstructed/Reconceptualized opens Sept. 1 in the Rosemary Berkel and Harry L. Crisp II Museum at Southeast Missouri State University’s River Campus.

The public is invited to the opening reception scheduled for 4-8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1, with an artist’s talk at 6 p.m. by Abdul-Musawwir, professor of fine arts at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

The exhibit will remain on display through Oct. 23. Admission is free. A limited print catalog accompanies this exhibition.

“Reconstructed/Reconceptualized” is an investigation of the history of the banjo and its direct link to African string instruments including the kora, ngoni, nyatiti and xalam, and how their aesthetic descriptions speak passionately to the construction of the banjo. The spiritual kinship between the banjo and African string instruments has created a timeless bridge across the Atlantic Ocean.

His interest in the banjo as an object connecting Africa’s presence in America began in 2000 during a class discussion about Henry Ossawa’s “Banjo Lesson” painting.

“In my studio practice, the aesthetic experiences have been intellectually and emotionally inspiring, and have brought me to a point of investigating the material as content – various wood quality and forms,” Abdul-Musawwir said.

During a three-month residency at the Smithsonian Museum of African Art Warren M. Robbins Library, Washington, D.C. in the spring of 2016, Abdul-Musawwir studied a wide range of documents on African string instruments.

“With the professional assistance of librarian Janet Stanley and library technician Karen Brown, I was able to answer many questions on the banjo’s history in America,” he said. “The outcome is a reconceptualization of the banjo and its kinship with Africa.”

Abdel-Musawwir earned his Master of Fine Arts from SIU-Carbondale. He is the host for WSIU Television’s “Expressions.”

Financial assistant for this project has been provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.

The Crisp Museum is located in the Cultural Arts Center at Southeast Missouri State University’s River Campus, located at 518 S. Fountain St. in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 1-4 p.m. on weekends and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the first Friday of the month. For more information, call (573) 651-2260 or email