Monthly Archives: March 2011

Mask of the Spring Water: Dance as a Source of Culture in Africa

KALLVATTNETS MASK was first published in Swedish in 1983; and this is the first English translation, by Rachelle Puryear and Hakar Lovgren. The author, Birgit Akesson (1908-2001) was a legendary figure, an innovative modern dancer and choreographer, and a teacher and researcher. This is her very personal documentation of traditional African dance in a number of societies in East, West and Central Africa during the 1960s and 1970s. She travelled extensively in Africa, with stays in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia and the Republic of Congo. She presents a unique body of material, analysed from her special vantage point. Her search for the essence of dance, the source beyond language or expression that was universal for true dance, had its point of departure in dance as an essential part of human existence. In opposition to many art historians, anthropologists and ethnologists, she experienced the dance, the masks, the music and the social interaction as intrinsic elements of a totality. In many instances, what she was allowed to see then may no longer exist, making her observations a valuable historical record of the state of traditional African dance in the mid-1900s.

For more information about this publication or to purchase it from the African Books Collective click here.


“Ain’t I A Woman” Revisited: Getting to know the Artists

Zemen Kidane, Curatorial Fellow at MoCADA asked three talented artists, whose work was displayed in the Ain’t I a Woman exhibition at MoCADA, questions on their art and their experience with MoCADA. Elizabeth Colombo, Phoenix Savage, and Eric Alugas come from diverse backgrounds and work in dramatically different media. It is these assorted perspectives that make MoCADA a space for colorful dialogue. Get to know these artists and look out for more of their work in the future!

ZK:Zemen Kidane
EC: Elizabeth Colombo
PS: Phoenix Savage
EA:Eric Alugas

ZK: Where do you live and where are you from?

EC: I live now in Harlem. I was born and raised in France and my family is from Martinique.

PS:I currently live in Atlanta. I have been here for the last 3 years, while I do a MFA program from Georgia State University. I am departing the area in a few short weeks, to live and work in Nigeria on a Fulbright Fellowship.

EA: I was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana.  I now live and work in New York City, and exhibit here, as well as in Europe, and throughout the United States.
ZK: Can you explain what you took away from the concept of the exhibit?

EC: Definitely a feeling of empowerment. Black women- actually all women- regardless of race, social upbringing, and education have been put down throughout centuries. But let it be one brave enough to lead the march and everyone will follow.

PS:I walked away thinking MOCADA really knew how to throw down at an art opening. I enjoyed the vibe of the opening reception. The beauty of the people really caught my attention. On a more artistic note, I loved the exhibition being in a space of blackness that edified the creative process. That really moved me, and bolstered my resolve that I am living my destiny.

EA: The feelings that prevailed through and after the exhibition were respect, admiration, and pride, for the institution. The concept: “the abstract body of the black woman,” was a difficult, if not maddening one. Difficult concepts, however, may very well be the most worthy of effort. I am glad I participated in the exhibition, and that MoCADA had the courage to take on the concept.

To read the discussion in full including the artists’ answers to the following questions click here.

ZK: How was presenting your work for the exhibition? … read more

ZK: How is Diaspora displayed in your piece(s)? … read more

Contributed by: Zemen Kidane, Curatorial Fellow

New Review: Sex and Race in the Black Atlantic Mulatto Devils and Multiracial Messiahs

The Black Atlantic Resource is pleased to present a review of Dr. Daniel McNeil’s, Sex and Race in the Black Atlantic by Muli Amaye

As a part of the Routledge Studies series on African and Black Diaspora this book is a necessary and useful addition. The fact that it brings a lot of research and theory together makes it a good starting point for information on an important part of the diaspora that is often overlooked, other than with curiosity or somewhat derogatory terms.

Overall the book is informative and provides the reader with extensive notes at the end broken down by chapters and a thorough bibliography. McNeil has linked theories and philosophies to literature and contemporary TV/film in a way that provides the reader with understandable examples and brings the text to life. The writing is accessible and readable using language in a way that opens the book up from pure academia and puts it into the public sphere.

The book is split into 6 main chapters plus a preface and a conclusion. The headings for the chapters do not give a lot of information to the reader looking for specific information, however, the short preface deals with this. Each chapter draws on what has been written previously i.e. Schulyer, Rank and Dubois are used comparatively throughout, which gives the book coherence.

Overall this book is a comprehensive look at the mixed race population bringing the debate right up to date and offering a fresh look at theories and philosophies by introducing creative expression into the forum. By challenging what has been written and debated before, McNeil encourages the reader to think beyond what has always been on offer by leading theorists and to question whether it is time for a fresh look.

Click here to read a brief overview of each chapter.

MoCADA and the 2011 College Art Association Conference

The Black Atlantic Resource is delighted to announce a collaborative programme of posting over the next five weeks during which we will be making available information about some of the activities and discourses which the New York based Musuem of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) has been involved in recently.

So here is the first:

MoCADA’s Curatorial Fellows reflect on The 2011 College Art Association Conference

On Friday, February 11th, we had our first experience in the field as Curatorial Fellows at MoCADA. We attended the 99th annual College Art Association (CAA) Conference at the Hilton New York in Midtown, Manhattan. The atmosphere was lively, with artists and scholars bustling from lecture to lecture, introducing each other to colleagues, and browsing the legendary Book and Trade Fair.

The day began at 12:30pm with thirteen poster displays by scholars in the field, including MoCADA’s former Director of Exhibitions, Kimberli Gant. Kim’s poster presentation was on Staff Diversity in Museums, and drew from current research that she is conducting at the University of Texas at Austin in pursuit of her Ph.D in Contemporary African Diasporan arts. Kim’s display visually represented race and gender demographics in museum workplaces in …read more

At 2:30pm, we attended a collection of presentations, followed by a panel discussion entitled, “The Ethnographic Ruse: Early Erotic Photographs of Non-Western Women.” Five scholars presented papers on their research, and common themes of colonialism, exotification of the female body, and photographs as documentation versus fantasy, emerged throughout the afternoon.

One of the papers, Shadow Catchers: Legacies of Early Photographic Images of Samoans, written and presented by Dr. Caroline Vercoe of the University of Auckland in New Zealand, bridged historic representations of Samoan women as hypersexualized, with a discussion on the practices of contemporary Samoan women photographers, designers, and performance artists. Dr. Vercoe referenced multimedia and performance artist, Shigeyuki Kihara …read more

The session concluded with a panel discussion moderated by legendary performance artist, Coco Fusco, from Parsons The New School for Design. During the question and answer portion of the discussion, the point was made that while in the Pacific, there is a history of the nude female body being constructed as sexually inviting and welcoming, the Black female nude has historically been associated with the slave auction block … read more

A question to ponder:

To what extent are there parallels between contemporary works by women of African Descent and other women of color who construct images of the nude, racialized body?

Please comment or add questions on this discussion!

Contributed by: Zemen Kidane, Isissa Komada-John, Jabari Owens-Bailey

To read this post in full and view related video and audio clips click here.

NEW REVIEW: The Political Calypso and Conflict Transformation

A new review of  The Political Calypso – A Sociolinguistic Process of Conflict Transformation, by Everard Philips (published 2009) has been added to the Black Atlantic Resource. This piece was contributed by performance poet and current PhD student at the London School of Economics (LSE) Ursula Troche:

This is a very useful book, especially given the urgency with which we need to engage in finding solutions against violence and inequality in the present times. Violence has increasingly become a problem in urban areas in Britain as well as in Caribbean countries such as Trinidad, Jamaica and Guyana. This book shows that the political calypso is an art form that has created a space where violence and inequality is problematised, and thereby transformed. This function has positive implications for social and even legal processes, argues Phillips, by showing that this art form is, in fact, a form of informal alternative dispute resolution (ADR). With this, it offers a creative healing space for communication, consciousness-raising and healing – and thereby acts as a ‘theatre of emancipation’. The original context and conflict was of course that of enslavement … read more

A fuller version of this review will be published in the Journal of Self and Society. If you are interested in buying a copy of The Political Calypso – A Sociolinguistic Process of Conflict Transformation, please email Ursula Troche at:

The pen is mightier than the sword, but the tongue is mightier than both put together

A new profile has been added to the Black Atlantic Resource which explores the life of Marcus Garvey and the UNIA.

Marcus Garvey was a prominent black nationalist leader in the early twentieth century. In the space of ten years this unknown Jamaican, from a poor background, moved to America and lead a phenomenal political and social movement based in Harlem, New York. He remains a prominent and contentious figure in black history and was an important inspiration for later black power movements. ‘Garveyism’ was popular globally precisely because it confronted issues of ‘race’ in a new way.

Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) which promoted black pride and separatism. Charismatic and controversial, he was also an orator, writer, publisher and entrepreneur. He encouraged the black community to become economically independent so as not to rely on white America. However, there were many issues surrounding both the man and the movement. Although initially on good terms with other black leaders, his relationships deteriorated as he became more radical. A. Philip Randolph was said to be ‘embarrassed by him’ and W.E.B Du Bois called him “a grand distraction” and “the most dangerous enemy of the black race”.

Garvey is particularly significant for being a black leader in America with a more global agenda. In the 1920’s he was arguably the most loved and hated black man in the world. The UNIA eventually had 500 branches in 22 countries with millions of members, and ‘The Negro World’, the newspaper of the UNIA, at its peak had 200,000 subscriptions worldwide. He created a global African nation and left a legacy of Pan-Africanism and liberation ideology. He has had a profound impact of African nationalist movements, inspired the Rastafarian movement based in the West Indies and in the U.S. the Black Panthers, the Nation of Islam, and Black Power reflected elements of Garveyism.

Whilst Garvey’s leadership was short-lived, at his peak he led the largest black movement in history constituting a vital part of black Atlantic awakening. However the debates surrounding this somewhat contradictory figure have certainly not been short-lived. They continue in current scholarship often consider questions such as; Was Garveyism racist, supremacist or liberationist? Was Garvey himself misguided, romantic, or a merely a bunglar? Even though it did not always achieve its aims practically the efforts of the UNIA were still significant in terms of black pride and consciousness.

Click here to read the full profile for Garvey and continue the debate by commenting below.