Kibibi Ajanku makes and presents ethnically charged art. Her passion embodies the thrust of the African Diaspora. Kibibi’s creativity is the ongoing and ever evolving effort of her life journey. Her work is eclectic and innovative. It is ancient while at the same time new-world and always changing. Ajanku’s endeavors include, but are not limited to, contemporary art and artifacts, performance art, and visual art. Her artistry is layered with and entrenched in indigenous folkways. Her work embodies research, identity, and the gathering of elements of African retention, in hopes of evoking intuitive memories that reach back into ancestral histories and stories that impact the here and the now.
Kibibi Ajanku is known broadly as the Founder of the Baltimore-based Sankofa Dance Theater. Under her leadership, the company features elements of distant past, existing present, and imagined future, all drenched in the traditions of the historical Mali Dynasty. Under Ajanku’s direction, the group conveys new-world costuming, choreography, and texture on the shoulders of the old-world authentic traditions of Africa. Since 1989, Ajanku’s major projects include visual, as well as performance art and have been artistically curated to include costuming, historical artifacts, and contemporary works of art, providing each audience with an experience that is an informative journey to the exotic places. Her work has been presented at the Baltimore Museum of Art, The Walters Art Museum, Reginald F. Lewis Museum, and more. It includes her legacy of designing, building, and making costumes, stage wear, and accoutrements. The work embodies a broad performance art skill base, and additionally covers techniques to include, but not limited to, machine sewing, hand sewing, embroidery, beadwork, tie dye, batik, macramé, crochet, appliqué, mola work, adinkra print, dye making, quilt making, and clothing fabrication. This effort has required the acquisition of information, materials, supplies, artifacts, and details from indigenous locations in West Africa, South Africa, the Caribbean, and certain American villages.
Kibibi Ajanku’s passion for art began early. She began dancing at age three and crafting in elementary school. Kibibi was nurtured by “grandma’s hands” as she sat at the knees of a quilt making maternal grandmother, a paternal grandmother who crocheted daily, and followed on the heels of fashion forward aunts who sewed their entire personal wardrobes. This fueled an artistic journey that began with the study of western forms of study and training continued on to an exploration, execution, and deep passion for an indigenous aesthetic. Ajanku has received international skill training and workshops: tapestries in Theis, Senegal; Adinkra fabric printing and kente weaving in Kumasi, Ghana; mud cloth acquisitions from the Mali railway; embroidery work in Medina, Senegal. Each of six trips to African a have included fabric and fibers. Ajanku has traveled the African diaspora to study, teach and perform with many masters, and most recently spent time studying, working, and exhibiting in Havana, Cuba. Much of her time there was spent entrenched in the dress, dance, song, and rhythm of the Orisha, as well as creating mosaic works inspired by the landscape.
Kibibi Ajanku attended Morgan State University, received an MFA in Curatorial Practice from Maryland Institute College of Art, is a Professor in the Fine Arts Department at Coppin State University, and is an indigo artist/researcher for the Fiber Department at Maryland Institute College of Art. Ajanku believes that when presented properly, art is the perfect vehicle to move forward into greater intercultural awareness for the global community.