Griot’s Throne

Title:  Griot’s Throne

Site:  Bethel New Life Complex
1140 N. Lamon, Chicago

Artists:  Phil Schuster and Nina Smoot-Cain

Community Participants: Neighborhood youth artists

Sponsors:  Chicago Public Art Group and Bethel New Life

Year: 2002

Scale:  6 x 9 x 3 feet

Materials:  Concrete

Information:  The Griot’s Throne is a functional sculpture. It sits at the southeast side of the Senior Residence Center at the Beth Ann Campus, adjacent to the playground of the Molade Day Care Center. This placement invites the seniors to meet and tell their life stories to the children of Molade. The siting serves as a bridge between generations.

The griot acted as the storyteller and keeper of history in many West African cultures. As a result, the role of the griot was extremely important to the survival of the tribes and cultures. Without written language, the griot functioned as the memory bank for all elements of everyday life and living. The use of animals incorporated in tales of great wit and prowess is widespread among African Americans even today. In The Griot’s Throne, human and animals peer out from a field of corn, reminding us of the importance of stories about animals that teach us how to behave.

The Griot’s Throne now stands with the other CPAG work at the Beth Anne Center, bridging generations and inviting reflection on the richness of the culture of the people who live, work, and attend functions at Bethel New Life and on Chicago’s west side.