B earing Witness from Another Place: James Baldwin in Turkey

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earing Witness from Another Place: James Baldwin in Turkey

Photographs by Sedat Pakay

For immediate release:

A place to witness; NAAM exhibit explores James Baldwin’s sanctuary.
The Northwest African American Museum premieres Bearing Witness from Another Place: James Baldwin in Turkey, Photographs by Sedat Pakay. October 20, 2012—September 29, 2013.
This exclusive exhibit marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of Baldwin’s death and offers rarely seen images of James Baldwin’s private life and community in Turkey between 1961 and 1971. Special programming includes a speaker series, beginning October 24 with a talk by photographer, filmmaker and Baldwin friend, Sedat Pakay.
The piercingly intimate photographs are candid images of an American icon at ease a world away from the turbulence of his very public life. Baldwin, a self-described 'witness' of the Civil Rights Movement, chose periods of self-imposed exile to better see the country that shaped him.  During the turbulence of the 1960s he chose Turkey as a temporary refuge from the pressures of praise and the weight of racial and sexual prejudice. Sedat Pakay’s striking photographs are joined by insightful exploration of Baldwin’s iconic personality and the personal sanctuary he found in Turkey.
Northwest African American Museum: 2300 S. Massachusetts Street, Seattle, WA 98144. 206.518.6000 www.naamnw.org

Please Contact:

Leilani Lewis

Northwest African American Museum

Manager, Community Relations and Volunteers

206-518-6000 ext 108


For immediate release:

James Baldwin speaker series at NAAM
In connection with Bearing Witness from Another Place: James Baldwin in Turkey, Photographs by Sedat Pakay, October 20, 2012—September 29, 2013, The Northwest African American Museum will launch an engaging and exploratory Speaker Series.
NAAM’s unique exhibit marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of Baldwin’s death and offers rare and intimate images of James Baldwin and his life in Turkey. The speaker series brings depth and insight to the investigation of James Baldwin and his sanctuary in Turkey.
The presenters in this special speaker series will cover the art of photography, American and Turkish history, and the evolution of race, gender and sexuality in the arts. The talks will be held in the Northwest African American Museum Legacy Gallery from 6-8pm.
Wednesday October 24, 2012 Sedat Pakay

Saturday February 16, 2013               Nancy Rawles

Thursday July 25, 2013                    Magdalena Zaborowska

Thursday September 26, 2013        David Leeming

Photographer Sedat Pakay calls his work with Baldwin a “ten year long visual adventure recording Mr. Baldwin.” Pakay received his MFA from Yale Art School in 1968 where he studied with Walker Evans. His photographs have been exhibited internationally and are in the permanent collections of major museums. He has produced and directed films of the lives and work of important 20th century artists. Pakay lives in Hudson Valley where he conducts workshops and lectures on film and photography.
Local educator and novelist Nancy Rawles will discuss the work of James Baldwin and the way his time in Turkey influenced his writings. Rawles is the author of “Love Like Gumbo,” “Crawfish Dreams” and “My Jim.” She is the recipient of the American Book Award, Washington State Governor’s Writers Award, American Library Association’s Alex Award and the Legacy Award in Fiction from the Hurston/Wright Foundation.
Magdalena Zaborowska is the author of “James Baldwin’s Turkish Decade,” the first biography of the writer to focus on his time in Turkey. She is a professor at the Program in American Culture and Center for Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan and the winner of 2009 William Sanders Scarborough Prize.
Baldwin’s personal secretary and friend, David Leeming, is the author of several books including: “James Baldwin: A Biography,” and “Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney.” Leeming’s influential biography presented a uniquely intimate portrait of Baldwin’s personal and professional world and his skill confronting the darkest sides of his society, while maintaining a profound love for life.
Northwest African American Museum: 2300 S. Massachusetts Street, Seattle, WA 98144. 206.518.6000 www.naamnw.org

Recent Press:

Seattle Art & Performance, Issue No. 3 - September 05, 2012, “James Baldwin in Istanbul,” by Charles Mudede

Baldwin on Galata Bridge in Istanbul. Summer 1965

Shot on 2-1/4 X 2-1/4 in (6 x 6cmm) black & white film and printed on Ilford silver gelatin paper

From Sedat:

“Taken while he was walking on the bridge that spans the width of the Golden Horn. Behind him is a panorama of Istanbul, with its mosques and minarets on a hazy summer afternoon. Baldwin then was writing his novel "Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone" published by Dial Press in 1967. His editor at the publishing house was Ed Doctorow who later wrote many successful books.”

Baldwin with a guard in front of the gates of the Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul. Summer 1965

Black and white film 6X 6 cm (2-1.4 square). Scanned digitally.

From Sedat:

“During his six month stay at his apartment in the city center Baldwin took frequent walks in his neighborhood. The Dolma Bahce Palace, a 19th century palace built in Rococo style was the seat of the last Ottoman sultans as the Empire was crumbling. Baldwin's house was a short distance away. I photographed him standing next to two soldiers who were guarding the ornate iron gates of the Palace. Then one guard left and Baldwin was speaking English to the remaining guard who did not understand a word of it. Thus the surprised smile on Baldwin's face.”

1965. Ektachrome 35mm color slide film. Image converted to black and white digitally.

From Sedat:

The town of Emirgan, half an hour away from the city center is famous for its tea houses. The town sits on the shore of the Bosporus, a waterway that connects the Black Sea with the Aegean Sea. Istanbul is the only city in the world that sits on two continents, Asia on the eastern coast, and Europe on the western coast separated by the Bosporus. Through this strait Jason and the Argonauts sailed on the Black Sea to a land which is now Ukraine. As they soaked the skins of the animals they butchered in a nearby creek, they discovered that small nuggets of gold were lodged into the fur. This is the basis of myth "The Golden Fleece". Along with sipping their tea, the teahouse patrons may indulge themselves in puffing on hookah, a Middle Eastern water pipe. Here Baldwin is trying to smoke from a hookah accompanied by a friend from Istanbul. You can see from the expression on his face, the experience was not a great success.

MISSION of the Northwest African American Museum
Our mission is to spread knowledge, understanding and enjoyment of the histories, arts and cultures of people of African descent for the enrichment of all. We accomplish our mission by working with others to:

  • investigate and celebrate Black experiences in America through exhibitions, programs and events.

Northwest African American Museum: A brief history
1981: Idea of African American Museum to be housed in Colman School building proposed to Mayor Royer by the Community Exchange, a multi-racial coalition.
1984: Formation of Task Force to establish an African American Museum.
1985: African American community activists, Earl Debnam, Michael Greenwood, Charlie James and Omari Tahri occupy the recently closed Colman School to establish and claim the site as the desired museum location.
1986 –1990: The City, Seattle School District, and community activists explore other possible locations for the Museum.
1993: A not-for-profit organization called the African American Heritage Museum and Cultural Center is formed. A Board of Directors is selected to oversee the project with Mayor Norm Rice’s office.
1995: Mayor Norm Rice appoints Bob Flowers to chair African American Heritage Museum Board.
2001–2003: Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, under the leadership of the Board of Directors and CEO James Kelly, takes on the project and purchases Colman School building in 2003 from Seattle School District.
2004 –2005: Carver Gayton becomes Director and Barbara Earl Thomas, Curator, of the Northwest African American Museum.
2008: NAAM opens its doors as a private 501(c) 3 non-profit independent of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle.
2012: NAAM has welcomed over 65,000 visitors since opening. The vibrant community of staff, volunteers, visitors and other stakeholders helps the museum thrive.

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