Always in flight: Malik Seneferu’s new sculpture at Sundial inspires youth with places to go

by Meaghan Mitchell and Keenan Norris

Harbors-Landing-by-Malik-Seneferu-lil-girl-at-Sundial-Park-0917-web-300x300, Always in flight: Malik Seneferu’s new sculpture at Sundial inspires youth with places to go, Culture Currents
Free as a bird is how Malik Seneferu’s beautiful new sculpture at Sundial Park atop Hunters Point Hill makes the little ones feel. It’s called “Harbor’s Landing” in honor of William Leidesdorff (Oct. 23, 1810-May 18, 1848), a wealthy and influential Black man who donated the land for San Francisco’s first public school and was in charge of the city’s harbors and piers. – Photo: Britney Willis

About a year ago Bayview’s Hilltop Park received a $6.9 million renovation from San Francisco Rec and Park and the Trust for Public Land. The renovation covered a new lawn and upgraded the plaza, amphitheater and lighting surrounding the sundial.

The Dish also received a modern redesign, including a variety of new structural elements to challenge skateboarders, as Hoodline reported. Earlier this year an artist who was born and raised in the neighborhood felt the need to add his own artistic touch to the park: local hero Malik Seneferu.

Seneferu is an artist and a survivor, known in Bayview Hunters Point as a truth teller, historian and griot. He was called to be an artist, but any false move could’ve meant the end of all his ambitions back in the day when life was a tightrope.

A son of Hunters Point, raised in public housing between Harbor Road and West Point during the crack era, he has long loved sculpting and is a stalwart of the local artistic movement, one of the Bay Area’s most notable visual artists and arguably the most prolific. The Hilltop Park sculpture, titled “Harbor’s Landing,” features a bird, its blue color reflecting the cobalt blue of the summer sky, emerging from the blue Bay.

“My love for this project is inspired by my early life growing up in the parks of Hunters Point,” said Seneferu. “The very act of coming home to run back outside was a daily quest. As a child, I enjoyed creating art and the freedom to enjoy every park in San Francisco. Each park had a unique quality, which would include some sort of public art project,” he noted. “I was always in flight with ideas of places to go.”

Black-Media-Appreciation-Night-Malik-Karen-Seneferu-Yoshis-112612-by-TaSin-Sabir-300x200, Always in flight: Malik Seneferu’s new sculpture at Sundial inspires youth with places to go, Culture Currents
Malik and Karen Seneferu at the Bay View’s first Black Media Appreciation Night Nov. 26, 2012: Because Malik hand crafted the awards, winners treasured them.

“As a child I was also mesmerized by bird life, which made me an avid bird watcher,” he explains. “I believe it was this early interest that drove my creativity into flight.”

The name Harbor’s Landing is inspired by William Alexander Leidesdorff Jr., an Afro Cuban immigrant businessman and prominent community leader who made a major impact by donating land for the first public school in San Francisco. He was also responsible for the city’s harbors and piers.

Seneferu noted that the sculpture pays homage not only to Leidesdorff’s rich history but is a play on the name Harbor Road, a main Hunters Point thoroughfare. The sculpture itself possesses a deeper meaning:

  • The bird symbolizes the falcon and creative mind, which is needed to embody the future of a community while defying the gravity of reality around it.
  • The circle cut out symbolizes the sun and the moon, hence a full day.
  • The upward flapping wing symbolizes one’s highest creative qualities.
  • The wave symbolizes the confidence and faith that is needed to embark upon the journey.
  • The eye in its open state symbolizes awareness.
  • The arch in the center of the wave is cut out as a doorway symbolizing opportunities, as in “Another day another opportunity.”

An award-winning self-taught painter, draughtsman, muralist, sculptor, illustrator, instructor and AAMA facilitator, Seneferu has displayed his work internationally and it has adorned book, magazine and newspaper covers. Acclaimed at New York’s Schomburg Center and the Smithsonian in D.C., his art has traveled to London, to Durban, South Africa’s “War against Racism,” even to Google headquarters and on to Italy, Haiti and Kenya.

Bayview Hunters Point native Meaghan Mitchell covers her hood and others for Hoodline. Contact her at @meaghan_m on Twitter or by email at Keenan Norris and Malik Seneferu are collaborating on a graphic novel.