Inspired by Hope: How the Election of President Barack Obama Inspired one of the Last Major Bodies of Work by MacArthur Genius Artist Aminah Robinson


by Carole Genshaft, Columbus Museum of Art, 2016

Aminah’s Presidential Suite, by Columbus, Ohio artist Aminah Robinson, is a celebration of the election of President Barack Obama. The work embodies the hopefulness in the hearts of Americans, who like Aminah, were proud to witness the election of the country’s first African-American president.

Amina made a monumental RagGonNon as a part of the suite. A RagGonNon is complex work the artist added to over a long period of time. She believed it was never complete because those viewing it would bring new and different interpretations to it. These collages combine buttons, fabric scraps, and found objects with paint and pen and ink details.

All of Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson’s work is about the bridges, connections, and journeys that link us as human beings— throughout time and place. Aminah was a strong believer in the African concept of Sankofa— the necessity to remember the past in order to move forward.

Another theme that permeates Aminah’s work is the commonalities that all people share regardless of the color of their skin, the clothes they wear, or the language they speak. She visited many countries and saw that in each one people were taking care of their families, socializing in the marketplaces, and working to make ends meet just as they do at home. And Aminah also believed that as people, we don’t just pop up on our own— but rather we are the product of our families, our ancestors, and the communities in which we live.

The work reflects Aminah’s profound joy in the election of the nation’s first African-American president and, at the same time, her guarded hopefulness that by remembering the injustices of the past, they will not be repeated in the future.

Aminah Robinson is from the King-Lincoln neighborhood of Columbus; this happens to be where Champion is located. This article is relevant to my research because it provides context for understanding the kind of art that has been impactful and formative for the community in the past. A theme of Aminah’s work is around community and neighborhoods, these are the same themes that I am working to encourage at Champion.