Connect with us

DailyArtMagazine.com – Art History Stories

Black Artists Matter

Zanele Muholi, Phila I, Parktown, Johannesburg, 2016, source: Aperture.org.

Contemporary Art

Black Artists Matter

In the past days I have been repeatedly asking myself what I, a white art historian (gosh, how privileged that already sounds), can do to help raise awareness about the continuing racism and discrimination not only in the United States, but everywhere else. And what came to my mind is to acknowledge those overlooked black artists who may not be as famous as they deserve to be because of their skin color. Below find a very subjective list of a few of them. Spread love and kindness.

Romuald Hazoumè

Romual Hazoume, photograph
Black Artists Matter: Romuald Hazoumè, source: whitewall.art.

It is already enough to mention Romuald Hazoumè’s cultural origin to begin a story of colonialism and suppression, as he was born into the centuries-old Yoruba ethnic group, in the capital of Benin, Porto Novo. His work first gained popularity in the early Nineties, when the London Saatchi Gallery put on show his masks from upcycled materials, especially gasoline canisters, which bore witness to the European dirty practices of dumping trash in Africa.

FIAC 2019, Romual Hazoume and Cheri Samba
Black Artists Matter: Romuald Hazoumè and Chéri Samba, FIAC 2019, 2019. MAGNIN-A Gallery, Paris, France.

I send back to the West that which belongs to them, that is to say, the refuse of consumer society that invades us every day.

Romual Hazoume, quote source: Caacart.com
Romual Hazoume, Bouche du Roi
Black Artists Matter: Romuald Hazoumè, Bouche du Roi, 2005. Source: October Gallery.

He made a break-through with a piece completed in 2005 for the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery (1807), entitled Bouche du Roi. The piece was named after a place in Benin from which slaves were transported to the Caribbean and the Americas. It was a reworking of the infamous 1789 ship, named Brookes, composed again from upcycled materials and masks. The British Museum purchased the work. Follow his art, which takes on the agenda of various political and economic issues troubling Benin and West Africa.

Zanele Muholi

Zanele Muholi, Phila I, Parktown; black artists
Black Artists Matter: Zanele Muholi, Phila I, Parktown, Johannesburg, 2016, source: Aperture.org.

I’m sure you have heard of her photographic self-portraits, which carry a magical and penetrating vibe of the old daguerreotypes. She prefers to be called a visual activist rather than visual artist, as she has dedicated herself to advocating for a black gender-nonconforming community.

My practice as a visual activist looks at black resistance—existence as well as insistence. Most of the work I have done over the years focuses exclusively on black LGBTQIA and gender-nonconforming individuals making sure we exist in the visual archive.

Zanele Muholi, Interview by Renée Mussai, Aperture.org.
Zanele Muholi, Bona, Charlottesville, Virginia; black artists
Black Artists Matter: Zanele Muholi, Bona, Charlottesville, Virginia, 2015, Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York.

Muholi also wants to increase the presence of black women in the media by challenging stereotypical standards of beauty, which often leave no room for people of color.

I wanted to use my face so that people will always remember just how important our black faces are, when confronted by them. (…) For this black face to be recognized as belonging to a sensible, thinking being in their own right.

Zanele Muholi, Interview by Renée Mussai, Aperture.org.

Chéri Samba

Cheri Samba, What is the future of our art
Black Artists Matter: Chéri Samba, What is the future of our art, 1997. Source: africanah.org.

I appeal to people’s consciences, artists must make people think.

Cheri Samba, quote source: African Contemporary.

Possibly it is Samba’s mission which has made him so famous. In the Eighties he began signing his works “Chéri Samba: popular artist,” yet he did not only mean popular as in famous, but popular in the sense “of the people.” He is considered a founding member of the “Popular Painting” school along with Pierre Bodo. This is because Samba’s paintings capture the social, political, economic, and cultural aspects of everyday life in the DRC’s capital, Kinshasa.

Cheri Samba, I love colour; black artists
Black Artists Matter: Chéri Samba, I love colour, 2010. Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, Paris, France.

Although often portraying himself, Samba in reality tackles themes like AIDS, poverty, and corruption. In the painting above, Samba wants to explore race and self-identity and to appeal to the viewers’ conscience.

Kara Walker

Kara Walker, The Means to an End: A Shadow Drama in Five Acts
Black Artists Matter: Kara Walker, one of five panels from The Means to an End: A Shadow Drama in Five Acts, 1995, Honolulu Museum of Art.

Oh, how I love Kara Walker. I’m sure you all have seen her silhouetted figures and might not know it was her work. Her seemingly innocent or even infantile works in fact examine such complex issues such as gender, race, equality, exploitation, and violence. And their stark black-and-white form puts all viewers’ prejudices and views in perspective.

Kara Walkers, Go to hell or atlanta, whichever comes first; black artists
Black Artists Matter: Kara Walker, Go To Hell or Atlanta, Whichever Comes First, 2015. Source: artists’ website.

Her 2015 exhibition at the Victoria Miro Gallery in London engaged with the historical narratives on colonialism and slavery in Atlanta, the southern American city where Walker spent her teenage years. In her giant cut-out, she layered the associations surrounding the Stone Mountain, a park on the outskirts of Atlanta featuring the world’s largest exposed granite monolith. Where today there is a theme park with a wild west train ride and popular laser shows, in 1915 this place was pronounced the spiritual home of the Ku Klux Klan…

Kara Walker, photograph black artists
Black Artists Matter: Kara Walker in Venice. Source: artist’s website.

For more contemporary black artists, check out:

Magda, art historian and Italianist, she writes about art because she cannot make it herself. She loves committed and political artists like Ai Weiwei or the Futurists; like Joseph Beuys she believes that art can change us and we can change the world.

Comments

More in Contemporary Art

  • 21st century

    Meet the Award-winning Sculptor and Installation Artist Ayşe Erkmen

    By

    Berlin-based Turkish visual artist Ayşe Erkmen has been awarded the Ernst Franz Vogelmann Prize for Sculpture in 2020. As the first woman artist to receive this prize, she will have her sculptures Kuckuck (2003) and not the color it is (2014) displayed in the retrospective exhibition...

  • 20th century

    Micha Ullman’s Empty Library: An Ode to Culture

    By

    A symbol of education in the city of Berlin, the Bebelplatz Square was chosen on May 10, 1933 by Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Education and Propaganda of the Nazi government, to carry out the infamous autodafé. This sad episode of German history consisted of the burning...

  • Aerial view of Beirut Aerial view of Beirut

    20th century

    Beirut’s Art Scene: Before the Blast and Now

    By

    It was only three years ago, after a long civil war, that Beirut’s art scene began to find its feet. Despite ever-present political corruption, an unsteady economy, and rising inflation, the Mediterranean city has recently become a hot-spot for Arab artists that often attracts an international...

  • 21st century

    Three Unique Portrayals of Europa’s Abduction Myth

    By

    The mesmerizing realm of Greek mythology is one of the greatest sources for artists to exhibit their technical brilliance and unique interpretations. Its influence and weight not only strongly felt in visual arts, but in every other artistic discipline as well. Greek mythology is full of...

  • Damien Hirst, Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable Damien Hirst, Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable

    19th Century

    Artists and Their Myths

    By

    Sometimes, the story that is attached to an artist is as important as their craft. Let’s take a look at artists and the myths that are related to them. Though many think of myth as a fictional story, that is not always the case. In fact,...

To Top

Just to let you know, DailyArt Magazine’s website uses cookies to personalise content and adverts, to provide social media features and to analyse traffic. Read cookies policy