Okoe Pyatt was born in Sarasota, Florida, in 1942. His parents moved the family to Harlem, New York, in 1944, where at an early age his interest for art surfaced. Okoe attended the Frederick Douglass Junior High School, where his talent for drawing was noticed by his art teacher. Without any formal training, the young aspiring artist developed into a self-taught painter and collagist and later improved his skills at the Weusi Academy of Arts and Studies, a community-based arts institution he helped to organize.
It was at the academy where Okoe and several other community-based artists formed The Weusi Artists (“Weusi” meaning “Blackness” in Swahili) and began working together during the mid-1960s to promote African and African American culture through the visual arts. Although Harlem had a thriving art culture with a long history of great artists, those who held the purse strings in New York City's art world perceived Harlem as void of artistic creativity. In response to this myth, Weusi artists made it their mission to organize and challenge the racism and exclusiveness of mainstream art institutions in New York City and across the country.
Okoe’s work is nationally and internationally recognized. His exhibitions include: the Brooklyn Museum, Karibu Gallery, the Fulton Art Fair, International House Gallery, Gallery Pamoja, Stony Brook University, Studio Museum in Harlem, Kimakos Gallery, Riverside Church Gallery, Hunter College Gallery, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Bedford Stuyvesant Center for Arts and Culture, and other national galleries. His paintings and collages are in the permanent archives of ASCRIA in Georgetown, Guyana, South America and Germany, as well as numerous private collections, articles and publications.
Mr. Pyatt’s work can be described as multimedia, multi-textual. He uses acrylics and paper with vibrant colors to convey strong imagery speaking to the strength and dignity of the African and African American experience. His main objective is to illustrate the history and beauty of the Diaspora.
He remains a dedicated member of the Weusi Artist Collective, where for more than 50 years he has continued to maintain the organization’s archives. When asked what he wants to accomplish through his work, he responds, “I want to reflect images which sing of beauty, peace, harmony and our ability to remain strong, resilient and steadfast.”
As Civil Rights Attorney and Cultural Artist Jaribu Hill expresses: “Color. All the colors gathered together against the images of bonded Africans, dancing waters and streams. Collages of red suns and dark moons. I see all this in the works of Okoe Pyatt. Weusi. Black. A celebration of all that we are. This work binds us to ourselves, our ancestors. Art for life. Breath of spirit. Let these faces live on…”
Email: okoe4art at gmail dot com