The fragility of life is a fickle thing. People die, lives close to ours are lost and yet life trudges on, climbing farther up the rocky terrain.

While this can be a tough pill to swallow, artist Fahamu Pecou focuses on our resistance to the cold hands of oppression and death. With this resistance comes the affirmation of life in all of its zest.

The University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) Museum of Art held its opening reception last Thursday evening, showcasing stunning acquisitions it has attained over the course of the past five years and its headlining exhibition by Fahamu Pecou: “DO or DIE: Affect, Ritual, Resistance.”

With this year’s exhibits, there was a focus on racial tensions and the ensuing strains they can cause on the psyches of the afflicted. Some of the more stirring pieces depicted evocative images; these pieces showcased an intentionally crude drawing of a white man pulling a gun on an unarmed black man (titled “South Africa” by artist Leon Golub), an empty-eyed, red-lipped light-skinned woman crying (titled “High Yella Blue” by artist Alison Saar) and any number of powerful images from the mind of Pecou. While there was a decent amount of upbeat, buoyant art that wasn’t quite as heavy, much of the artwork on display cut deep to the bone with its symbolism and heart-wrenching honesty.

Sara Zeala, the Education and Communications Manager for the Museum of Art at UNH, told The New Hampshire this year’s opening reception was a stunning success that touched upon very important issues.

“I think the exhibitions we have on display really execute our mission, which is teaching with our collection,” Zeala said. “This year’s display was very different. It covered good issues; very sensitive issues that we all need to talk about.”

When asked about Pecou, Zeala was blown away with what his art brings to the table.

“Everything he touches is really beautiful and really well done. He’s using all kinds of pop culture [in his art], looking at mixed media and hip-hop,” she said. “His art is executed really well. He’s a master of his craft who’s very well educated and knows how to get his point across of what he has to say.”

Pecou’s art stands out for its effervescence and tender-hearted nature. Yet it seems to accomplish much more. As he says in his synopsis of the exhibit, “My exhibition considers the affective power of art as a space of resistance… Rather than depict or fetishize the violence that proposes our eradication, this exhibit focuses on representations that affirm cyclic infinitude of our spirit.”

Pecou doesn’t aim to glorify the widespread oppression of African Americans. Instead, he aims to lift their spirits, both in life and the afterlife, through his fey and unique art style.
Much of the exhibit centers around an African American man whose face is covered in what appears to be white shells. He looks as if he’s wearing traditional African garb, yet also dons joggers and Nike Roshe Runs.

Many of the women in Pecou’s artwork are often pregnant and flaked with gold, and the men appear to be powerful, yet blinded by their masks. These interesting, conflicting images create something ornate and beautiful in their astonishing nature and contrasting colors.

While Pecou’s art is a spectacle within itself, the entire opening reception was one to remember, showcasing a wide range of artists and styles. In Zeala’s words, “It was a great way to open the academic year.”