The First Book of Africa is an installation that investigates the long distance relationship between Africa and the United States as embodied in the culture of African Americans. The work employs fragments of American quilts in the creation of a series of Family trees that aspire to an ambiguous land of imagined tradition where urban status symbols are rooted in spiritual and ritualistic creation. The series revolves around the forms of Palm trees spoiled with remnants of urban debris, weighted down and tried by time.

Each of the sculptures emits a separate portion of a sound work created through reference to the call and response with the call missing.The somber sound of a Bass clarinet carries throughout the piece that is layered with fragments of historical discourse by African Americans on Africa and readings from the book of the exhibition's title. The instrumentation serves as a reminder of Africa as the origins of the jazz tradition.

The title for the exhibition is drawn from one of a series of children’s books written by Langston Hughes (one of the most important poets of the Harlem Renaissance) in 1960, quite late in his career. For numerous African American children this book provided their introduction to a culture that had always been referenced as the distant ancestors or roots of their own.

For Thompson, similar books and the collection of African art objects housed by his grandfather provided the foundation for a fragmentary dialogue with Africa. The installation, littered with sound loosely tied to makeshift spiritual choirs and triumphant processions, is in effect, the artists’ first book, mixing cultures and generating hybrid histories not dissimilar to that which nurture numerous African Americans.