Arena for Contemporary African, African-American and Caribbean Art

Author: Christabel Johanson

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Toyin Ojih Odutola: A Countervailing Theory

ToyinA Pull_at_the_Back_of_the_Mind, 84 X 50 inches, 2019, courtesy Jack Shainman

Using only drawing materials such as pencil and charcoal, Ojih Odutola tackles the body of work much like a poem or novel. The artist was said to spend months crafting images that created a structure similar to chapters of a novel.

Christabel Johanson on Nigerian-American artist Toyin Ojih Odutola
Toyin Ojih Odutola, A Pull at the Back of a Mind, 2019 © Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

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Zanele Muholi


By playing photographer and subject, Muholi keeps the authenticity of both roles and redefines the transaction between those roles. It is true to say that she is both (and neither) the dominant and submissive party. This is the traditional power dynamic examined through the styles she uses.

Christabel Johanson on Zanele Muholi
Somnyama Ngonyama II, Oslo, 2015 © Zanele Muholi. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York.

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Cydne Jasmin Coleby


Being in post-colonial society there is a narrative of identity that was placed upon you. It’s as though you’re expected to play a role – you’ve been given a script and you’re doing your best to play into this idea and deliver this character. As a woman you are striving to live up to the standard of Eurocentric women, a standard that’s difficult for even some European women.

Christabel Johanson on Cydne Jasmin Coleby
I’ve been made whole, 2020

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John Jennings


I write and make art from a black perspective because I think it’s needed and it makes me feel like I own my stories. I feel like it’s beautiful, it’s resistant and it’s powerful.

John Jennings in conversation with Christabel Johanson
Mickanah. Black Kirby Series, 2015 Read more »

Liz Johnson Artur


For Artur photography is about cultivating trust between the artist and the subject. Her focus is on representing people the way they want to be represented. Documenting that in a picture is a form of conservation and she has kept her lens on the Black community, focusing on the everyday moments that present themselves.

Christabel Johanson on Liz Johnson Artur
Untitled, 1996-2012, courtecy Brooklyn Museum, copyright Liz Johnson Artur Read more »