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THE STORY OF PURE LAGOS

Pure Lagos African Arts Initiative is working in tandem with the Bells Mill Historical and Research Society to liberate the minds and hearts of the Tidewater, VA community and beyond with respect to the legacy of the Transatlantic trade in human beings. Our mission is to utilize creative artistic expression to heal the wounds of the past. We highlight brilliant West African artists from our collective in Lagos, Nigeria and bring their contemporary works over to our Hampton Roads galleries for exhibition and sale. Many of these artists are living below the poverty line in an African nation still reeling from the after-effects of colonialism and slavery. 

We aim to empower, support and prosper these creative individuals and provide scholarships for them to travel that same route their ancestors were forcibly embarked upon. In this way, we create a psychic healing of that journey and reconcile past transgressions, making good on the troubled relationship between coastal Virginia and coastal West Africa. In addition to the rented locations Pure Lagos now operates in downtown Norfolk, we have secured ownership of a property from which we can provide room, board and exhibition/live workspace for artists. We bring in two artists per year to collaborate, study and enjoy educational/artistic opportunities that broaden their view and sphere of influence. We have found such a property minutes from our downtown galleries. By special grace, we received a considerable amount of financing and angel gifts to secure the space. It is now a thriving museo-gallery, event space and five star Airbnb.

In Bells Mill, Chesapeake, VA we have the unique opportunity to build upon historic lands that have been in my personal family since just after the civil war. This area has already been developed as a labor of love by my father and Afro-Union Civil War descendant, Dr. E. Curtis Alexander. Currently on site is a commemorative burial ground and markers for one of the first “Coloured” pupil schoolhouses founded by my great ancestor and civil war veteran, Sargent March Corprew. We aim to erect a sacred historic home, archival museum, and farm on this property which is the last plot left in a multi acre parcel that my ancestors strategically purchased and owned circa 1880, yet systematically lost over the years since so-called reconstruction, the Jim Crow era, the Civil Rights movement, up until today.  A similar loss of assets occurred on my mother’s side of the family in nearby Baraud Park, Norfolk. We have thankfully maintained one last plot still in the family and successfully renovated a 100-year-old 1 bedroom cottage built by my great grandparents; and we’ve incorporated an organic urban farm alongside it. With the support of generous grantors and innovative financing we intend to do the same in Bells Mill, Chesapeake, though on a larger scale as the acreage is much more substantial. These properties and lands will form a network of community-service driven live/work spaces, which provide healing stability and transformative activity for an African Diasporic community extending from Lagos to Virginia. Thank you for your consideration.

 

 

Sia Alexander

Founder, Pure Lagos African Art Gallery

Board Member, Bells Mill Historical & Research Society

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