Oklahoma City, OK (June 9, 2011) Urban Roots is pleased to present Norman-based artist Eyakem Gulilat’s The Promised Land, the third installment of Urban Roots’ visual art initiative. The Promised Land opens Thursday, June 9th and features still and moving images that capture the obscure cultural landscape of historic Boley, Oklahoma.
In The Promised Land, Gulilat explores his own personal history by documenting two resident populations – African Americans and Mennonites. Both cultures have a long, rich relationship with the town yet rarely interact with one another. With the simplicity of rural life as a backdrop, The Promised Land poignantly highlights the complexities of identity and belonging. Gulilat operates as a sort of tourist, capturing the subjects in the interiors of their own homes. The artist’s snapshot and portraiture aesthetic make the viewer question whether or not the scenes are staged; further highlighting Boley’s fractured religious and racial landscape and the larger construct of identity.
Eyakem Gulilat’s photographs, video performances, and multimedia installations explore the formal properties of photography, the politics of identity, and the artist’s personal history and memory. Gulilat was born in Ethiopia, raised in Kenya, and considers Austin his first stateside home. He received his MFA in Media Art and Photography from the University of Oklahoma. He lives and works in Norman, Oklahoma.