Asalamu alaikum. Good evening. Welcome! Thank you so much for being here tonight. I’ve been looking forward to having you all to my home for this vernissage for quite some time. And I’m so pleased to introduce you to my mom, Dr. Kierscht, who is visiting from Minnesota.
This is mom’s 3rd visit to Mauritania, and each time she comes back, she tells me again how much she appreciates the generous Mauritanian hospitality.
Art in embassies was established in 1963, with a goal of creating temporary exhibitions, and publications like this one – [hold one up] please take one with you this evening – to provide international audiences with a sense of the quality, scope, and diversity of American – and Mauritanian – art, and culture. My hope is that people who have never visited the United States can personally experience the depth and breadth of our artistic heritage and values.
Today we are exhibiting 20 pieces of art that were curated especially for this residence, taking the U.S.-Mauritanian relationship into consideration. They display the beauty and strength of both countries. If you have not seen all of them, I invite you to discover them in the dining room, living room and foyer. Please feel free to take photos of them and publish with the hashtag #ArtinEmbassies.
I selected pieces of art for this exhibition that were personal to me. My home states of Minnesota and North Dakota are beautifully depicted in landscapes by Harriet Rosenbaum and Reginald Marsh. My former neighbor Jim Walker, a professional photographer for the Smithsonian, took the ten awe-inspiring photos of the Washington DC area, showing the splendor of the American capital, both inside and out. Kathleen Stafford, an American who worked at the International School here for some years, paints beautiful watercolors with distinctly West African subjects, including the Chinguetti mosque. The sculpture “Easter,” by my stepfather Norm Buktenica, brings back childhood memories of growing up in North Dakota and shines brightly as a symbol of renewal.
I also hope you’ll visit some very special paintings in the dining room [point]. My college classmate Tim Nielsen painted these three famous American abolitionists – Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Sojourner Truth. These incredibly brave, smart, courageous Americans highlight the most egregious period in American history, one that reverberates to this day. But they also represent the spirit to overcome seemingly impossible trials and tribulations. And these paintings also remind me that the work continues to this day – the importance of working towards racial equality, to be sure, but also gender equality, and the inclusion of people with disabilities. These three paintings remind me of what President Biden said last year – about how as a nation we “need to make equity and justice part of what we do every day — today, tomorrow, and every day.”
With that, I’d like to again let you know how pleased I am to host you here this evening. A very warm welcome from my mom and me.
Please enjoy the rest of the evening. Thank you for taking the time to experience aspects of American culture through art. Do wander around and look, but also enjoy each other’s company. Say hello to an old friend, and meet someone new. Thank you. Merci, shukran.