From the International Swimming Hall of Fame:
The International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) has commissioned a work of art by award winning sculptor George Gadson, to recognize the generally unrecognized contributions that Africans and swimmers of African descent have played not only in swimming history, but in world history. The as-yet to be named artwork will be unveiled during the inaugural International Aquatic Symposium & Film Festival on Friday, May 11, at the ISHOF Museum in Fort Lauderdale.
“The history of swimming is very clear,” says Bruce Wigo, President and CEO of ISHOF. “From the first encounter between Europeans and sub-Sahara Africans in the 1450’s, Africans and their descendants in the Americas were regarded as being superior to the Europeans in swimming skills. Africans were even brought to Italian cities of Venice and Genoa to teach Europeans to swim. It is one of the great untold stories of western history.”
Wigo and Gadson believe that art can provide a useful vehicle to tell this story.
“As an artist,” says Gadson, “I was intrigued by the opportunity to create a sculpture not only that could educate people about swimming history, but also could destroy the myth that Blacks can’t swim. We have done this by combining historical imagery from pre-colonial Africa with the modern Olympic achievements by swimmers of African descent through the medium of art.”
The sculpted images rest under the image of a Sankova Bird. “The Sankofa Bird,” says Gadson, “is an Adrinkra symbol, from the Ashante people of Ghana, West Africa, and is said to represent ‘positive reversion’.”
Why reviving an interest in swimming in the Black community is important, says Gadson, is because of the disproportionately high drowning rates, the lost opportunities for employment, recreation and better health that comes from participating in swimming related activities.
The sculpture will be housed at the ISHOF and be used to recognize achievements and contributions to swimming by Africans and/or by persons of African descent. The first to receive this honor will be members of the DuSable High School Swim Team. In the 1930’s through the 1950’s, DuSable was a segregated “colored” school in Chicago. It produced some of the finest swimmers in the nation when Blacks had few competitive swimming opportunities. A presentation about the DuSable swim team by historian Robert Pruter will be a feature of the Symposium and precede the unveiling ceremony for the sculpture at a luncheon, beginning at 12 noon on Friday, May 11th, 2012 at the Hall of Fame’s DuPont Auditorium, in Fort Lauderdale.
About the Artist:
A graduate of Duke University, Gadson
has been commissioned to create works of art for many high profile events, including the 1995 and 1999 Super Bowls, corporate clients like Darden Restaurants (Red Lobster & Olive Garden) and JM Family Enterprises (SE Toyota) and many south Florida municipalities. His works have been exhibited throughout the state of Florida. To learn more about George Gadson: www.georgegadson.com
To see a video preview of the sculpture and description by George Gadson: http://vimeo.com/32014058