Jeannette Ralyea

African Heritage in America (Diptych)
sheet acrylic
36 x 48 in.

This work is a representation of the artist’s personal reflection of her genealogy and culture in association to her societal surroundings. Born in Burkina Faso, in West Africa, Jeannette Ralyea immigrated to the United States and settled in Chicago at a young age. Growing up within the French speaking community of Chicago, she has been able to maintain her cultural integrity as a Burkinabe but sees her American lifestyle overpowering her identity.

The inspiration for her work derives from wooden masks made by the Mossi tribe, the tribe of her mother’s heritage, and the largest ethnic group living in Burkina Faso. These masks are a portrayal of the “sun” mask, commonly used in performances to celebrate the farming season. The choice of mask is an homage to her grandmother who tilled the farmland of the village until she passed in 2013.

The choice of using plastics for the piece is also a critique of commonly used materials in America, derived from China. As technology slowly grows in parts of Africa, so does the immigration of Chinese material goods, creating a hostile takeover of chemically made materials over natural materials. As globalism progress, hand made African masks have become luxury, and have been taken over by plastic masks with “Made in China” imprinted within the molds.

© Jeannette Ralyea