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An 'Uplifting Artist' also teaches

Amon Ra Imhotep got hooked on arts and crafts at an early age.

It started with him sort of imitating his mother and father, who always seemed to be sketching and writing stuff on paper.

"I always saw them with a pencil behind their ears. Next thing you know, I saw my father doodle on paper, and one day he drew an Indian. And when I saw it, I tried to imitate it, and one thing led to another," he said.

Imhotep learned how to use pencils to create shading. And in high school he started crafting wooden carvings and masks.

These days, he is an independent artist, craftsman and designer who has taught jewelry and design to students at the Langston Hughes Center, the African-American Cultural Center and Erie Community College. He has designed logos, planning maps and drawings for Juneteenth and other festivals, the Buffalo Police Department, motorcycle clubs and churches.

And last month, he was one of two honored as an "Uplifting Artist" by Collective Buffalo. The nonprofit organization consists of the African-American Cultural Center, Buffalo City Ballet, Locust Street Neighborhood Art classes, Nash House Museum, Colored Musicians Club and El Museo Francisco Oller y Diego Rivera. Part of its mission is to bring public awareness to artists like Imhotep, who also designed the medallions for the ceremony.

"In the East Side community, the black community, Imhotep has always been known as a jeweler extraordinaire," said Daryl Rasuli, who sits on the Collective Buffalo advisory board. "He's always done people's African-centered jewelry, and everyone that loves that kind of jewelry knows he does original work. He's not the conventional jeweler that has a shop or store or anything like that, but he's well-respected for creating wonderful objects."

Other early influences in Imhotep's life were his maternal grandparents, who had been sharecroppers in the South before moving to Buffalo with the family.

In his body of artwork, his favorite piece is called African Mysteries. It is the silhouette of the African continent embedded with African symbols, including the Nile River, the Pyramids of Giza, the Eye of Ra and an ankh, a crosslike Egyptian symbol denoting life.

"It started as a drawing. Now it's a piece of jewelry," said Imhotep, whose full name is Amon Ra Ptah Hotep Imhotep.

Each word has a specific meaning, he said. "Amon" means hidden. "In today's world, it means the subconscious, the hidden self," he said.

"Ra" refers to the power of the sun, which "reveals light, reveals consciousness," he said.

"Ptah" relates to crafts people -- masons, woodworkers, metalsmiths -- "anything that relates to building, molding and creating with hands.

"It fits me just right," he said, adding that "Hotep" means inner, unshakable peace, while "Imhotep" was the name of the ancient Egyptian known as the Father of Medicine.

Have an idea for a person, organization or event that would make a good East Side Story? E-mail it to eastsidestory@buffnews.com, fax it to 856-5150 or call 849-6026.

email: dswilliams@buffnews.com