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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 26, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 43
Portraits of a native son
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Portraits of a native son

James Baldwin photo exhibit debuts at NAAM

by James Whitely - SGN Staff Writer

BEARING WITNESS FROM ANOTHER PLACE: JAMES BALDWIN IN TURKEY
NORTHWEST AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSEUM
Through September 29, 2013


It is the summer of 1965. James Baldwin stands on the banks of the Golden Horn, an inlet of the Bosphorus and a place the Greek, Roman, and Ottoman empires all called home. There are birds, boats, and minarets in the background - all partially eclipsed by haze. It's hard to tell what Baldwin might be thinking. Perhaps he's thinking about his fourth novel. Perhaps he's thinking about home. This is just one image of Baldwin during his time in Istanbul.

On Saturday, October 20, the Northwest African American Museum (NAAM) opened its new photography exhibit, Bearing Witness From Another Place: James Baldwin in Turkey. The photographs, by Sedat Pakay, give us a glimpse of Baldwin's private life in Turkey between 1961 and 1971.

There are about 30 images in total. Some are posed. Some are candid. Some are taken in the bustling ancient city; others are of the writer among friends or of his private life.

A WORLD APART
In one photo he is stirring tea, while in another he is sitting at his typewriter, a full ashtray beside him. Almost all the photos are black and white. In most of the images, he seems quite happy. He is a world away from the turbulent topics he covered in his first three novels. He is a writer in exile.

'As an outspoken writer who was both black and Gay, Baldwin had real cause to fear for his well-being in a country where racial and sexual intolerance was widespread,' reads a passage on the museum wall. 'These conditions led Baldwin to Istanbul, not as a means of escape but rather as a way to find the time and space to mindfully bear witness to his native land.'

This December will mark the 25th anniversary of Baldwin's death in France at age 63.

In addition to the exhibit, NAAM also is presenting a short series of speakers, including Pakay himself; Magdalena Zaborowska, author of James Baldwin's Turkish Decade, a biography focused on his time in Turkey; local novelist Nancy Rawles, who will discuss Baldwin's work and how his Turkish sojourn influenced his writing; and Baldwin's personal secretary and friend, David Leeming.

ABOUT NAAM
NAAM is located at 2300 S. Massachusetts St., in Seattle. General admission is $6. To learn more, visit www.naamnw.org.

The mission of NAAM is to spread knowledge, understanding, and enjoyment of the histories, arts, and cultures of people of African descent for the enrichment of all by presenting and preserving the connections between the Pacific Northwest and people of African descent and by investigating and celebrating black experiences in America through exhibitions, programs, and events.

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