BHM Celebration of Art and Poetry: Charles E. Joyner’s “The Church at Elmina Castle Window”

This month, 606 is honoring Black History by sharing art and poetry by black artists and poets. We’ve invited artists, art historians, curators, archivists, literary scholars, poets, and others with expertise in art and poetry to share their favorite pieces of art and poems by black artists around the globe. If you find your life enriched by this blog series, say “thank you” by buying art from a black artist and poetry by black artists, visiting a museum, asking your local art museum to include more black artists, donating to an art scholarship for students of color, asking your library to stock more books on black art and by black poets, dropping off some art supplies at your local community center or daycare or senior center, or donating art by artists of color to your local school, community center, or house of worship. 

Today, we thank Jason Franklin, MID, the Executive Director of Triangle Cultural Art Gallery in Raleigh, North Carolina, for sharing reflections on the work of Charles E. Joyner. Professor Joyner has been an icon at the School of Design at NCSU for the past 40 years.  He has worked with students to explore culture, history, and archetypes from Ghana for the past 18 years.  His travels abroad have greatly influence his current show – “Come Sunday Morning”- hosted at the Triangle Cultural Art Gallery. 606 encourages our readers in Raleigh and the surrounding area to support the important work of Triangle Cultural Art Gallery, which seeks to explore the area’s rich and diverse cultural heritage through artistic expression.

Elmina Castle


Church at Elmina Castle

Mixed Media on Board


Charles E. Joyner

Charles Joyner reflects the themes of from African and African-American culture and his life growing up in rural North Carolina. His has conducted research on the traditions and customs of African and African-American cultures and his artwork is informed by comparisons between them. Most recently, his work has been invigorated by the visual iconography of Ghana, in West Africa. It employs imagery, symbolism, icons, and motifs blended into what he terms “mixed media serigraphs,” a print created via silkscreen.

The image Church at Elmina Castle is a symbolic piece that depicts the structure that sent many Africans to the “New World” from West African–in particular, Ghana.  During the period it was most used, the castle was used as a place of worship by the British, while enslaved Africans were held captive in the dungeons located underneath the structure.  The cross represents the church located in the top of the facility, the symbols on the bottom left represents bondage, and the symbol on the bottom right was used on plantation to depict the presence of enslaved Africans.  Lastly, Charles Joyner’s work has been influenced by two titans in art history, John Biggers and Romare Bearden, both artists with North Carolinian roots. This image combines the cultural patterning of Biggers and the collage process of Bearden.  In this way, Charles Joyner’s work is both artistically unique and historically relevant.

I have captured an explanation of these themes in this in a video in which Charles speaks about the creation and meaning of this outstanding historic piece, Come Sunday Morning Part II.  The exhibit will show through March 9, 2019.

About the author: Jason Franklin is the Executive Director of the Triangle Cultural Art Gallery.






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