Arena for Contemporary African, African-American and Caribbean Art

Author: Christabel Johanson

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Mental Health in Black Art

Redefining Mental Illness

Being able to express oneself without words is a powerful tool in making wellbeing accessible for those without the confidence to voice how they feel. Experiencing emotions vicariously through other’s work, whether they are your own emotions reflected or new ways to empathise with others, is a priceless gift. And in the economics of health, art is a valuable currency which has an international value.

Christabel Johanson on Mental Health in Black Art
Tsoku Maela, redifining mental illness

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Jennie Baptiste


Black art has always been around, like the Harlem Renaissance which came about in the 1920s. We have always existed within this creative space and will continue to do so.”

Jennie Baptiste in coversation with Christabel Johanson
Pinky, 2002

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Dareece Walker: Black Fathers Matter


Race, gender and art have been complex topics to pursue but artists like Walker find this a vital opportunity to express their message, celebrate black masculinity and protest the lack of “accurate representation of black males in media…”

Christabel Johanson in conversation with the American artist Dareece Walker
Black Fathers Matter, Series III

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Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

lynette8, Vigil For A Horseman (detail), 2017

Much like the work of authors, these are character studies of timeless protagonists who never existed but can have as much impact on audiences as literary heroes. Interestingly Yaidom-Boakye is also a writer, so she understands how to structure a story. Her pictures are a narrative without words.

Christabel Johanson on the British-Ghanaian artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
Vigil For A Horseman (detail), 2017

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Black Modernism


Black Modernism was a development that was finding a home for itself in contemporary white culture. Not only did it stimulate wonderful movements like the Harlem Renaissance, it exposed society to black experience and the shortcomings in black rights. As an artistic expression Black Modernism continues to develop and by doing so creates contemporary expression for a new generation.

Christabel Johanson on Black Modernism
Laser Segall, Perfil de Zulmira, 1928.

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