Thursday, June 5, 2008
Robert Smith Shabazz sat on the sidewalk at Fifth and Erie carving and painting one of his intricately detailed canes. He brought his unique style of artistic woodcarving to Fairhill about a year ago, and has been taking real pictures and duplicating them on wood ever since. One of the more detailed carvings comes from a family portrait. He was asked to create a wood rendering of a family picture. Shabazz was provided with a separate picture of a deceased relative, and asked to include that person in the carving. He was able to merge the to pictures and bring the family together once again. The final product is framed and hanging next to the original photographs.
The shop is full of eccentricities. Wood carvings of ancient Egyptian symbols, jazz legends and basketball stars hang on the walls. Miniature bongos dangle from leather string. Pamphlets from community organizations are nailed to the corkboard.
Shabazz’s modest shop also doubles as a music studio. A closet-sized practice room attached to the shop contains several percussion instruments, a saxophone, and a book of jazz standards. It is in this room that Shabazz teaches several students how to play various instruments. Shabazz plays the saxophone, but gives lessons on hand percussion and traditional Latin instruments such as the Timbale and Cuerto. He is close friends with the owner of Centro Musical, a popular music shop down the street. While Shabazz is not a Spanish speaker, he is learning to speak the language so that he can better understand his customers and other members of the community.