By Ariel Argueso

Pipe Dream News

October 12, 2010

Africa House, an independently-owned African art gallery in Endicott, is scheduled to host author and Binghamton University professor Jaimee Wriston Colbert this Thursday.

Colbert, a professor of English and creative writing, will be the second author to read and sign at Africa House.

Africa House was founded by Azuka Nzegwu, who runs the gallery on her own. She purchases items from Africa to sell, prepares programs and contacts authors to be a part of Africa House’s current reading series.

The Africa Gallery is educationally oriented and has a new exhibition every month. The current exhibition, which was launched Sept. 30, is Chris Bahr’s, a painter and mixed media artist whose work is influenced by Africa, Haiti and the Caribbean.

“I’m really trying to give people a different perspective of what Africa is all about,” Nzegwu said. “People think it’s just a starving continent; our goal is to show people a different perspective.”

Africa House has unique items for sale, such as sculptures, hand-crafted artifacts from Africa, jewelry and textiles.

“No one has ever bought an item at Africa House and returned it,” Nzegwu said. “When you buy something here, you know no one will ever have the same one because it has been hand-crafted by artisans from Africa.”

Nzegwu described her job as a challenge, but not one she seems to mind.

“People are having a hard time during this recession,” Nzegwu said. “You turn on the news and look around, and there’s no positive. In times like this, when things look bleak, being able to highlight the jewels of your community has a way of attracting people who never thought of looking at things such as art.”

Once a month until next June, one author will be reading and signing his or her books at Africa House. Nzegwu said she believes this program will be beneficial for aspiring writers and students to attend.

“Part of what we do here, as well as engaging in visual arts, we engage creative writers as well,” Nzegwu said. “We try to engage creative writers because they are artists themselves.”

Colbert will be reading and signing copies of her latest novel, “Shark Girls.”

“Shark Girls,” inspired by a real shark attack that occurred in Colbert’s place of origin, Hawaii, is about a young girl that survives a shark attack.

Colbert said the novel is based on obsession, from the viewpoints of two women who are searching for the “Shark Girl” — who changes in profound ways after the attack.

Colbert plans to read from her latest novel at her book reading and signing this Thursday, and she encourages students to attend.

“It’s a wonderful thing for writing students to do, as it not only exposes them to good, contemporary literature, but it makes them feel part of a literary and art community,” Colbert said.

The book reading and signing are free and open to the public

“Shark Girls” will be on sale at Africa House. River Read Bookstore is helping to promote the reading series as well. Africa House is located at 50 Washington Ave. in Endicott.