The identity of his subjects is often established within their communities and the over-arching culture of a people often forced into a status of segregation from the ‘dominant’ culture and consequently forced to adopt survival (and victory) strategies based on mutual support, community concern and positive, pro-social action to the benefit of all – to become, as MLK Jr. put it, the ‘thermostat’ to ‘transform the mores of society’. As Dr. Myrah Brown Green (the curator of this retrospective) explained to me, Neals work focuses on “…family, community, people in the places that he has traveled to (Western Africa, Egypt, Gullah Sea Islands, Caribbean Islands), those he knows, African/Black culture, historical figures, and people and friends in his neighborhood.”
If we look at some of the pieces shown here, we see a ‘young General Moses’ who clearly has African or African American features. Neals clearly appropriates the Moses/Exodus narrative for the African American experience, implying a need for an overall ‘thermostat’ strategy and perhaps strategist with vision and resolve to help ensure the further progress of the cause of justice, meaningful integration and development for Africans and African Americans alike. Indeed, I may be wrong, but this could be a sculpture of Harriet Tubman, who was a type of Moses who led blacks who escaped from slavery to freedom. “Afro-strut” is a sensual statement of self-confidence and forward movement. “And We Didn’t Know Who He Was” is a simple but powerful tip of the hat to Kwame Nkruhma, sometimes called the African “Lenin” – a man educated in the USA who became Ghana’s first president and one of the strongest proponents of anti-imperialism and pan-Africanism (an amazing person – please do some research on this guy if you are interested in modern history).