Rain garden and sculptures unveiled at June 16 celebration

Five life-size bronze sculptures of enslaved Africans who lived and worked at the Philipse Manor Hall in Yonkers are to be displayed in the Rain Garden of Enslaved Africans, which is due to be unveiled on June 17 when Yonkers kicks off this year’s June 16 celebrations.

Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano, along with sculptor Vinnie Bagwell, local artists and community leaders will conduct a ceremony in the Rain Garden at 20 Water Grant St.

Bagwell’s sculptures interpret the legacy of five enslaved Africans who were among the first to be freed from slavery by their owners in 1799, 64 years before the Emancipation Proclamation.

The sculptures are entitled “Themba the Boatman”, “I’Satta”, “Bibi”, “Sola” and “Olumide”. They are on display in the 2 acre Rain Garden along the Hudson River Esplanade. Each sculpture is set in a vignette containing a bench and landscape features of trees, shrubs and flowers against a backdrop of a stone-lined ravine.

Life size bronze public works of art of enslaved Africans created by Vinnie Bagwell. From left: “Bibi”, “I’Satta”, “Sola”, “Olumide” and “Themba the Boatman”. Photo by Maurice Mercado/City of Yonkers.

“On behalf of the residents of Yonkers, I am proud that our city is the permanent home of this poignant art exhibition that not only tells the remarkable story of some of our early residents, but also the place they and our city hold in the complicated history of the… take nation. ‘ Spano said. “Public art has become a hallmark of Yonkers’ diversity and vibrancy, and the rain garden here fits into the growing landscape of beautiful expression.”

Bagwell commented, “Public art sends a message about a community’s values ​​and priorities. In the spirit of transformative justice for acts against Black humanity, I am grateful to those who have supported this collective effort.”

Former Yonkers City Council Majority Leader Patricia McDow, ArtsWestchester CEO Janet Langsam, the Yonkers Board of Education, Sarah Lawrence College, historians, scholars, community-based organizations and community members worked with Bagwell to make the garden a reality, which included founding a non-profit 501(c)(3) arts organization.

Enslaved Africans’ rain garden is funded by the city of Yonkers; Westchester County; the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; the New York State Council on the Arts; the National Endowment for the Arts, ArtsWestchester; With Edison; and entergy.

The garden’s design, construction and landscaping plans were completed by BCT Design Studio, TJR Excavating Contractors Inc. and Bowman Design Company.

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