ART AS A WEAPON – AFRO AMERICAN ARTISTS

Any form of art is a form of power; it has impact, It affects us, it raises our awareness on contemporary issues. Through literature, music, art, photography, films and sports, African Americans have taken control of their own identity and imposed universal recognition. African-American culture, also known as Black-American culture, in the United States refers to the cultural contributions of African Americans to the culture of the United States, either as part of or distinct from American culture. The distinct identity of African-American culture is rooted in their historical experience. 

In the 1920s and 1930s, African-American music, literature, and art gained wide notice.  Jazz, swing, blues and other musical forms entered American popular music. African-American artists  created unique works of art featuring African Americans. This first major public recognition of African-American culture occurred during the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance was a phase of a larger New Negro movement that had emerged in the early 20th century and in some ways ushered in the civil rights movement of the late 1940s and early 1950s. The social foundations of this movement included the Great Migration of African Americans from rural to urban spaces and from South to North.  

The Harlem Renaissance was also a time of increased political involvement for African Americans.  The Nation of Islam, a notable quasi-Islamic religious movement, also began in the early 1930s.Authors during the Civil Rights era, such as Richard Wright, James Baldwin wrote about issues of racial segregation, oppression, and other aspects of African-American life. This tradition continues today with authors who have been accepted as an integral part of American literature, with works such as Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Beloved by Nobel Prize-winning Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou. Such works have achieved both best-selling and/or award-winning status.

We may wonder /to what extent  / If………………………………..

Art is a counter power ?

has Art contributed to the African American identity?

how have African Americans used Art as a counter power to achieve recognition ?

DOCUMENTS  

American Gothic, a portrait of government cleaning woman Ella Watson by  Gordon Parks

Parks  said of the image:

I had experienced a kind of bigotry and discrimination here that I never expected to experience. … At first, I asked her about her life, what it was like, and so disastrous that I felt that I must photograph this woman in a way that would make me feel or make the public feel about what Washington, D.C. was in 1942. So I put her before the American flag with a broom in one hand and a mop in another. And I said, « American Gothic »–that’s how I felt at the moment. I didn’t care about what anybody else felt. That’s what I felt about America and Ella Watson’s position inside America.

In this photograph, Parks uses his camera as a weapon against poverty, again racism, against all sorts of social discrimation. The photographer may have wanted to show that this woman, many African Americans are imprisoned in a socio.economic role that they can´t escape.The US flag in the background represents the hope for justice and equality, thus emphasizing the gap between the ideals and reality. (The American dream : myth or reality?)

William H. Johnson , Chain Gang  1939

Back in 1939, Chain Gangs were a reality and the artist wants to make people aware of the terrible and humiliating suffering involved in this form of punishment. In addition, the fact that all the prisoners are black would suggest that his intention was also to raise people´s awareness on the plight og African Americans, bubjected to exclusion, humiliation and stigmatisation.

MORE RECENT BLACK ARTISTS WHO HAVE HAD A GREAT INFLUENCE ON BLACK CULTURE 

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Spike Lee´s impact on Black Cinema

 

 

 

 

 

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