For his work Gravitas the African American artist Hank Willis Thomas used a photo of South African photographer Graeme Williams. He turned the orginal work into a black and white photo highlighting the image of the children outside the context of the militairy patrol on the bus in the original photo. Williams got furious and called Thomas a thief, Thomas called for reflection but, in the end, removed the work from the fair where it was presented. Stealing or appropriating? A crime or just a commentary?
The very fact that 1-54 exists sends a huge message out to emerging black artists and we get to see important and interesting works expressing a dialogue that we can relate to and can understand. Because 1-54 attracts a broad audience it provides an amazing platform and has an incredible reach.
Christabel Johanson in conversation with participants of the 1:54
Around 1918, at the end of the First World War, an unprecedented cultural revival took place in Harlem. It made history and was known as the Harlem Renaissance. Writers, poets, artists, musicians, actors and theorists proudly showed what the New Negro was capable of. For the first time, African Americans felt valued and respected.
Much about that important period in black history has been published. For a long time, however, it was concealed that many of the Harlem Renaissance tastemakers were gay. It was thought that making that public would undermine the euphoria.
This essay by Rob Perrée is about this aspect of the Harlem Renaissance.
Richard Bruce Nugent, Dancing Figures, c. 1935, copyright Thomas Wirth
The Harlem Renaissance was a revival of black culture in a black district of New York. Yet there was a white critic, writer and photographer who had a great influence on the effectuation of that wave of creativity and pride. That was Carl van Vechten. He was appreciated and hated. He brought black writers into contact with white lenders and publishers so that their books could be published. He himself wrote a novel, Nigger Heaven, which for his title and his insight in the decadent nightlife of Harlem was filleted by many Harlemites.
In this article Rob Perrée gives a portrait of this controversial dandy.
Portrait of Van Vechten by Florine Stettheimer (1922)
“I now understand better than ever that representation is very important, not in an angry way but an educational way, even though anger is a good tool. I am not a female artist; I am human and an artist. As a woman I am more vulnerable but it doesn’t stop me from creating.”
Nigerian artist Tyna Adebowale in conversation with Rosalie van Deursen
Africanah.org gives you insight and keeps you posted.
Africanah.org is a non-profit foundation operating on public donations. Readers like you power our success. For donations go to donate.