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Rhinold Ponder celebrates and contemplates the African American experience with his art. He will have a two-day exhibition, entitled “The Rise and Fail of the N-Word: Beyond Black and White” at the Carl Field Center at Princeton University on May 23rd and 24th. A wine and cheese reception will be Friday, May 23, 6 to 9 p.m. and an artist discussion on May 24 from 2 to 4.

Ponder designed his show to provide a visual prompt to create a safe place for difficult and honest discussions about race. “It begins with challenging our vocabulary and our need to accept the varied cultural perspectives brought to what must become an emotionally mature dialogue,” he says.

Various poets wrote poetry specifically for the show. The poets include an American Book Award winner, a popular female rap artist and an emerging British poet; a film collaboration with Princeton graduate Steve Williams and his son Drew Williams; a data visualization experiment; and a topical mix tape by former Princeton DJ Gary Jenkins, who once testified in court in favor of dropping a racial bias charge against a white man who beat a black man while using the N-word, a slang that was commonly used in his mostly black friend group.

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In addition to 12 new works by Ponder, the exhibit includes art pieces by 15 graphic artists from around the world. Ponder commissioned the artists to devise logos, using the end word, and these logos reflect the different attitudes about race and the N-Wordworldwide.


“I hired 20 people — 10 international and 10 Americans — through an online service called Fiverr to create logos with the idea that the Americans would have the most difficult time dealing with the assignment,” says Ponder. “In short, most of the international logos were very creative and half of the Americans could not follow the only real instruction I gave: No black and white logos. “

The “Little Nigger Logo” below was created by a Canadian graphic artist.

Ponder art logo

“I am thrilled to include some of my very talented friends in this project. They were more than willing to take the challenge, in part because the arts are such a healing and bonding force and we all know that we cannot move forward on any issue if we are all speaking different unshared languages and allowing our pain to cause us to reject understanding different perspectives,” said Ponder.

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“My take? Our dysfunction around race, racism and the N-word not only reflects our inability to collectively deal with nuance, it also shows how our creative energies are diminished because of this fiction called race.”