Artists in Exile

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Over the last decade, Philadelphia’s neighborhoods have been enriched by newcomers from Western, Central, Eastern and Southern African cultures. Often fleeing war and tragedies, these immigrants bring with them generations-old family and community traditions of art-making. Too often, immigrants put aside these arts, however sustaining, because they need to make a living, because such arts are held in little regard here, because this society follows a different rhythm. The eleven artists depicted in this modest photo exhibition are exceptional singers, dancers and drummers. They are depicted rehearsing and performing during a rare opportunity to come together to practice their arts, for a Philadelphia Folklore Project program called “Philly Dance Africa.”

“Philly Dance Africa” and this companion exhibition are modest attempts to raise our collective consciousness about resources: about important local artists and art traditions that exist outside public view. Often, people assume that art is something that needs to be brought to urban communities. Here at the PFP, we are committed to getting the word out that artists are alive – maybe not so well, but definitely ALIVE – in our gritty city. “Artists in Exile” is one in a series of Philadelphia Folklore Project (PFP) exhibitions that work to make more visible some amazing artists living in Philadelphia’s diverse urban neighborhoods.


Thomas B. Morton is an African American photographer, born and raised in Philadelphia. He has pursued his interest in the significance of culture in many ways: through formal study of photography and linguistics, field research and through various jobs. He has worked in the Peace Corps and in human relations and mediation. All photographs were taken either with a 35mm “point and shoot” or a single lens reflex (Nikon) camera. All were taken in available light during the fall of 1997 during informal gatherings, rehearsals and performances for what became “Philly Dance Africa,” produced by the Philadelphia Folklore Project.