Join us for the third session in the ongoing When We See Us webinar series conceived by Zeitz MOCAA in collaboration with the Institute for Humanities in Africa (HUMA), University of Cape Town (UCT).
The When We See Us webinar series precedes a major exhibition of the same name opening in November 2022. The exhibition, along with its accompanying programming, will unveil the deeper historic contexts and networks of a complex and under-represented genealogy that stems from African and Black modernities and spans several generations from the early 20th century to the present.
Looking back on a broad spectrum of global cultural movements toward Black liberation in the 20th century, we see the representational imperative of black figurative art and exhibition histories that assert the political impact of Black identity, aesthetics, and philosophy. To name only a few: The First World Festival of Black Arts and Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture that took place in Dakar and Lagos (1966 and 1977 respectively); the seminal Black Romantic: The Figurative Impulse in African-American Contemporary Art in 2002 curated by Thelma Golden for the Studio Museum in Harlem, as well as The Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power exhibition organized by the Tate Modern in 2017 with works spanning 1963 to 1983, and more recently, Same Mdluli’s ambitious art historical investigation, A Black Aesthetic: A View of South African Artists (1970-1990) presented at the Standard Bank Art Gallery in 2019.
These touchstones in artistic representation encompassed the influence of cultural activism and revolutions that spoke loudly and unapologetically of and to the Black experience. They continue to complicate notions of figuring blackness by traversing beyond and seeking connections across the geopolitical and generational.
In this session in the series, we ask how and why Black figuration offers a space for the projection of new vocabularies and shared imaginaries in the representation of self.
Huey Copeland, PhD, BFC Presidential Associate Professor, University of Pennsylvania
Huey Copeland is BFC Presidential Associate Professor in History of Art (Africana Studies) at the University of Pennsylvania. Copeland’s interdisciplinary work explores African/diasporic, American and European art from the late 18th century to the present with an emphasis on articulations of Blackness in the Western visual field. In particular, his research hones in on the vexed intersections of race and gender, subject and object, the aesthetic and its others from a Black feminist perspective that aims to put pressure on the blind spots and conventions of modernist art history.
Keyna Eleison, Curator, Researcher, and Professor at Parque Lage School of Visual Arts
Keyna Eleison is a curator, writer, love researcher, heiress Griot and shaman, narrator, singer and ancient chronicler. Eleison is Professor in the Free Learning Program at Parque Lage School of Visual Arts and Co-Artistic Director of the Museum of Modern Art, both in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She holds a Master of Art in History and a Bachelor of Philosophy. She specialises in art history and architecture. Eleison is a member of the African Heritage Commission for the laureation of the Valongo Wharf region as a World Heritage Site (UNESCO). She was also curator of the 10th SIART International Biennial, Bolivia. Currently, she contributes regularly to the column “For eyes that can see” in Contemporary And (C&) América Latina.
Athi Mongezeleli Joja, Art Critic and 2022 Presidential PhD Fellow in History of Art, University of Pennsylvania
Athi Mongezeleli Joja is a South African art critic and a PhD fellow in History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania, United States. He holds an MFA from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg where he studied the writing of the late South African art critic Colin Richards. Joja has written for art publications as well as print and online journals, including Mail & Guardian, Artthrob, Contemporary And (C&), Chimurenga Chronic and Africanah. Joja is a member of the arts collective Gugulective and in 2018, was awarded the Andrew W. Mellon International Predoctoral Fellowship at Northwestern University, Illinois.