Arena for Contemporary African, African-American and Caribbean Art

Author: Shelley Rice

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On the Road: Africa in Brussels

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On July 9, editor Rob Perrée and I decided to take a trip together, separately. Rob was home in Amsterdam; I was in Paris. It occurred to us that we might not be in the same city during the summer, so we decided to rectify that by buying train tickets to meet in Brussels — a city geographically in the middle, and one rich in things to see for those of us interested in African art. Moving between cities and countries in pursuit of cultural knowledge, Rob and I chose to participate in the “Afropolitan Age”, a concept central to the two major exhibitions on view in Belgium that inspired us to go on the road in the first place.

Shelley Rice on the exhibitions incarNations: African Art as Philosophy and Multiple Transmissions: Art in the Afropolitan Age

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Okwui Enwezor, the teacher


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Kara Walker’s Norma


As many of the readers of this magazine know, I am an art critic, not an opera critic – or even an opera fan. My interest in this production was simple: I wanted to see what would happen when a formidable African American concept artist like Kara Walker confronted and re-interpreted a cornerstone of European culture.

Shelley Rice on Kara Walker’s stage design, set design and costumes for Bellini’s opera Norma as presented in Venice.
Photo Michele Crosera.

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Hank Willis Thomas, an essay


“He makes clear that even the most successful African American men and White Women make good within roles scripted for them by others, in narratives that provide them with few options or real alternatives. Hoop dreams and football fantasies, like suitable marriages, happy households and feminine charms, are constructed ideals, actualized within well-defined social cages, gilded though they may be.”

Shelley Rice on Unbranded: A Century of White Women 1915-2015 by Hank Willis Thomas.
No anxious moments, 1918/2015, digital chromogenic print, 2015.

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Wafaa Bilal


Warm and textured, sensuously appaeling and grand in scale, the prints envelope their viewers, simultaneously attracting spectators with their physicality and repelling them with the implications of the subject matter they depict: palatial chambers in tatters, roofs and walls blown apart, objects (chairs, pianos, beds, chandeliers, tools) once used to sustain and enrich life, now metaphors only for survival in the face of death.

Shelley Rice analyzes recent photowork of Wafaa Bilal.

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