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Defining “African.” « MAD Blog
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Defining “African.”

Iona Rozeal Brown_ a3_blackface_21_L

a³…blackface #21, acrylic on canvas by Iona Rozeal Brown

[ED: Lowery Sims is a Curator at the Museum of Arts and Design]

In my first entry for this blog I posed a series of questions raised by The Global Africa Project. One of them was “How do we define “African” in this age of nomadic and migratory identities?” Serge Mouangue, the Cameroonian designer working in Japan, wrote eloquently in the last Global Africa post about how he copes with the multiple experiences he’s had in Cameroon, France, Australia and Japan.

The photographs of Serge’s kimonos as worn by Japanese and black models reminded me of Iona Rozeal Brown’s paintings and prints which according to her website, “explore the theme of Afro-Asiatic allegory, addressing the global influence of African American culture as fetish.”  Rozeal Brown, “intertextually juxtaposes color and texture, a technique that parallels her artistry as a DJ. Both practices emerge from a process of self-sampling and remixing, devices employed by media to create its own endless permutations or representations and meanings.”

While we may  amused by Brown’s “black face” characters in the format of  traditional Japanese prints, those of us who lived and worked in Harlem are used to seeing Japanese visitors affecting Afro hair styles, pancake make-up and taking lessons in gospel singing in that cultural capitol of black America. This cross- and inter-cultural nature of black culture was also captured in The Studio Museum in Harlem’s 2004 exhibition, Black Belt, organized by curator Christine Kim, now at the Los Angles County Museum of Art.

Kim adroitly examined the relationship between black and Asian culture in works by artists such as Brown, David Diao, Mark Bradford, Patty Chang, Michael Joo, and Glenn Kaino and Kori Newkirk. Kim’s conclusion?  “Hybrids exist everywhere, most definitely in urban cultures; vernaculars and dialects;  art forms;  and even polymorphic identities… and sometimes it isn’t until we trace the multiple lineages and their intersections that we see how cross-pollination is the norm, and singularity or purity is really the blip on the radar screen.”

Image courtesy Spelman.edu – www.spelman.edu/museum/pastarchive.shtm

 
 

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