I took a picture of this poem while I was visiting a cousin of mine and I thought it was fitting for the theme of my blog and afrofuturism that is emphasized with the the images of Saturn and stars in the background, the procession of black people with flames over their heads, and the object behind them that looks like either a rocket ship or a monument. The work is a collaboration between poet Daniel Marks and artist Bobby Moore.
You can see this and other photos I take on my instagram.
Last Thursday I managed to attend two pop up exhibitions, one in Harlem from The Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI), and the other in the Lower East Side, Nicole Vassell-curated Black Eye exhibit.
The Spirit of El Barrio: Past, Present and Future exhibition was The Caribbean Cultural Center first in a series of events that will take place at the old firehouse at 120 East 125th street in Harlem. The center is renovating the firehouse to be the new location of their center and this event was an introduction into this new space. Opening with speeches from founder Marta Moreno Vega, New Harlem East Merchants Association (NHEMA) Program Director, Adriane Mack and NHEMA and Community Board 11 member, Holly Drakeford, in the first tour and New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in the second, the exhibition featured art from Adrian Roman, Edgardo Miranda, Manny Vega, Oliver Rios and Yasmin Hernandez, as well as a live painting from Edgardo Tomas Larregui Rodriguez.
Besides being in the presence of gorgeous artwork, the steel pan music and the wearing of hard hats, the exhibition had a special treat which was the Augmented Reality technology (virtual visuals) from the Layar app. Layar is kind of like an updated version of a qr code, except that the added information is embedded in the artwork and not in a small box outside of it. When the image is scanned, another image or video pops up. This exhibition was a small preview to one of the future opening exhibitions of CCCADI in addition to an upcoming art auction.
Barbados Cultural Fact of the Day: Besides the Landship masquerade, there are several traditional Barbados costumed characters who are seen during Crop Over festival, including Mother Sally (“Muddah Sally”), The Donkey Man, The Shaggy Bear and The Stilt Man. Traditionally performed by a male who wore a mask to hide his identity, Mother Sally was a figure meant to represent fertility with her exaggerated breasts and bottom. The masquerade character has similarities to Gelede Masquerade of Yoruba in South Western Nigeria and in Ghana among the Ga ethnic peoples. Today, the character is played by women too and their performances are filled with comedy and rhythmic pelvic dances. The costume sometimes comes across as problematic with the stereotypical look and especially with men dressing as the character in the past, but reflects Barbados particular cultural history. I will discuss the other costume characters in following posts.
*Narratively’s The Imaginarium of Black Cinema: “… the Museum of African American Cinema (MoAAC) is actually a modest four-room office space on the ninth floor of Harlem’s Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building.
MoAAC, formed in 2001 as a nonprofit organization, is the brainchild of Gregory Javan Mills, Ernest N. Steele and twenty other founding members. Mills, its current C.E.O. & president, remembers seeing an episode of “Tony Brown’s Journal” on PBS in the mid-1980s devoted to early black cinema. He and the others spent the next decade and a half researching the history of black cinema in the United States. The idea to create a museum didn’t materialize until the late ’90s. Mills is on a mission to secure funds to display the vast collection, evidence of the largely untold history of black cinema, at a permanent establishment.”
Hey everyone! I am still fundraising for Atlantic Impact’s Abroad for a Cause Challenge in which the organization is inviting two bloggers to travel with them to Barbados this summer. Atlantic Impact is an organization that helps at risk youth by giving them opportunities to travel abroad. Please donate and/or share; I have until June 9th to raise all the money.
Today’s artist that I am featuring is self-taught Barbadian artist Jill McIntyre. Her joyfully colorful and vibrant artwork is filled with fantastical sea and nature-related imagery, combining this imagery “with mythology – mermaids (la sirene), dragons, sea monsters, a phoenix or two – and she is intrigued by the use of symbolism in art.” She says, ““I never paint to record life exactly as it is, I paint snapshots of my imagination. I like being able to rearrange reality and create my own little alternative world.” As for why the sea inspires her, McIntyre expresses, “for me the sea has always been associated with beauty, romance, mystery, fantasy, fun and adventure. In my mind, water has always symbolised life… an element with cleansing, renewing, refreshing, and healing power. I’m an optimist. I choose to imagine the depths of the ocean as filled with mythical creatures of beauty rather than mythical monsters of destruction.”
McIntyre purpose of her painting style is to remind viewers that “we should appreciate this gift of life; that we should dream and imagine, and believe anything is possible; that we should magnify what is good and positive. My paintings are windows to my soul; I paint to celebrate life. I want my work to express my joy in being alive, and to share my love of the Caribbean mystique. Essentially, I want my art to inspire viewers, my message is simple: ‘Smile, laugh, dream, live!'”
Conor Tomás Reed did a post describing “Caribbean Futurisms” and listing a few books that would fall under the term as well as other sources for Afrofuturism, in which I was included:
“Considered within this conditional crux, Caribbean cultural forms have developed a conscious capacity to play with time and space, especially within the last century. For example, a Caribbean novel can leap “forward,” as well as “backward,” as well as speculatively vault “across” times, because its people have been integral to the creation of how human activity is narratively measured. As well, a Caribbean novel can traverse lands from around this world and others because its people, their ancestors, and new generations travel these vast distances.
One of the most compelling aspects about art is that it can make you feel different emotions at the same time depending on the multiple contexts that you bring to it and the representations presented to you. For example, there is a lot of conversation surrounding the multiple receptions and audiences for Kara Walker’s Marvelous Sugar Baby piece — the discussions centering on the line between the intention of the art and the art becoming a spectacle erasing the intention. Those complex feelings arose for me while watching Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj’s musical, Salome: Da Voodoo Princess of Nawlins. at The Nuyorican last Thursday.
Adapted from Oscar Wilde’s 1891 play Salome (which Richard Strauss also adapted into an opera), Maharaj translates this modern retelling of the Biblical story of Salome to the setting of modern day 2005 Katrina-ravaged New Orleans (Nawlins). If you are not familiar with the story, Salome was a Jewish princess who requested the head of Jokanaan (John the Baptist) on a silver platter for dancing the dance of the seven veils for her stepfather. In this version remains the crossings between religion (ex. idol worship), death and sexuality as well as Christianity and pagan religion, specifically Voodoo. The musical begins with the character of Noah (Christian Lee Branch) who is in danger of dying in the Hurricane Katrina storm when he is confronted by Papa Ga (Audrey Hailes), who is similar to the darker aspect of Papa Legba, Kalfou, loa of disorder. Noah, his name an obvious reference to the Biblical character, wants to survive the storm, but he first has to make a deal with Ga — he has to make it through an underworld journey through the telling of Salome’s story.
Barbados cultural fact for the day: Since Kara Walker did the Marvelous Sugar Baby sphinx, did you know that sugar cane is an important industry in Barbados. Its coat of arms has a fist of a Barbadian holding two sugar canes that are crossed to resemble St. Andrews Cross.
*Speaking of Kara Walker, there is a lot of discussion and controversy surrounding the work she did (as usual with her work). The intention of her piece at its core is deep and though-provoking, highlighting the exploitation of black people to produce cash crops, like sugar, the sexual exploitation and degradation of black women, but also the simultaneous fascination with and sacredness of black women in the use of the sphinx pose, the exploitation of lower wage workers like those who used to work in the Domino Factory, and the refinement of certain products like sugar (another is vanilla) that mimics the erasure of black and brown people. Hilton Als discusses more in The New Yorker. Still, although I get it, the danger of art is always that other will not because they do not know the historical context and it will become a spectacle. Already many are mentioning how people are taking pictures, smiling and laughing around the artwork instead of contemplating it. It’s a tightrope issue of intention of art and the audiences’ reception of it.
*I was wondering what happened to the HowDoYouSayYamInAfrican’s (The YAMS collective) film showing at The Whitney; it seemed to have disappeared. This is what happened. Mainstream institutions being racially problematic -check!
*CCCADI (The Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute) will be hosting a series of events starting Thursday with a pop-up exhibition at the 1885 historical landmark firehouse on 125th street that they are renovating as their new space. The event, “The Spirit of El Barrio: Past, Present, and Future,” starts at 11am and will feature artists “Adrian Roman, Edgardo Miranda, Manny Vega, Oliver Rios and Yasmin Hernandez, with a special live painting by guest artist Edgardo Larregui. Some of the works of art will incorporate Augmented Reality technology, providing a small preview to one of the future opening exhibitions of CCCADI.”
Update: Due to a large volume of people wanting to attend, there will be two tours of the popup exhibition. The first will have speakers Marta Moreno Vega, the founder of CCCADI, and Senator Bill Perkins, and the second tour will have New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.