Biko

Featured in Collecting Lessons
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Biko, founder and president of The Museum of the African's Experience In America

“I buy anything black.” This is the collecting motto of artist and educator Emory Biko, a Homewood (neighborhood of Pittsburgh) resident who has amassed over 13,000 objects that chronicle the history of African-Americans in the United States. From photographs of Pittsburgh’s Hill District to Ku Klux Klan artifacts, Biko’s “Museum of the African’s Experience In America” is a remarkable and varied collection that also testifies to the incredible diversity of the African-American experience. 

The objects in the collection are obtained by any means necessary but are often found at flea markets, which he visits before dawn in order to beat the crowds. Biko maintains the collection himself and loans materials to various institutions for exhibition, including the Homewood YMCA, area schools and local art galleries, which also exhibit Biko’s sculptures and paintings. Collecting informs both his art and his audiences about the African American experience and opens up dialogue about slavery, race and pop culture. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does Biko mean when he says, “I buy anything black”?  Explain what type of objects he might buy for his collection.
  2. Why would various institutions be interested in borrowing or displaying objects from Biko’s collection?
  3. What historical/cultural importance do objects such as these serve?