Afrocentric artistry refers to the creation and expression of art that is centred around African and African diasporic cultures, experiences, and perspectives. This artistic approach aims to highlight the rich history, traditions, struggles, and achievements of people of African descent.
There are key features of Afrocentric artistry, and they include:
- Cultural Identity: This seeks to explore and celebrate the cultural identity of individuals and communities with African heritage and aims to counter historical narratives that have marginalized or misrepresented these cultures.
- African Aesthetics: This draws inspiration from traditional African aesthetics, such as intricate patterns, vibrant colours, symbolic motifs, and craftsmanship.
- Social and Political Commentary: This is the portion that addresses social and political issues that affect African and African diasporic communities, from racism, colonialism, identity, empowerment, and social justice.
- Cultural Traditions and History: This helps to draw references and honours historical events, figures, and traditions that have shaped African cultures and contributed to global history.
- Syncretism and Fusion: This is the element which fuses traditional African elements with contemporary styles and techniques.
- Storytelling and Oral Tradition: Helps us draw from oral traditions, folktales, and legends to communicate cultural values and histories.
Get some inspiration from these existing artworks;
The story of the Black Nova Scotians:
This work illustrates the stories of Black Nova Scotians. Nova Scotia is one of the 13 Provinces of Canada. The brain behind this work is Boma Nnaji who wants the world to see the brilliance and resilience of people of African descent, especially, as social issues of the African Community in Nova Scotia are not often discussed.
The Cultural Climate of the 1970s:
Barkley L. Hendricks, was a pioneer of Black portraiture – astounded by the lack of Black representation in Old Masters’ paintings, he decided to coalesce art history with queries of cultural heritage, capturing the raw emotions and stylish personalities of his entourage in classical, Baroque-like portraits. With a vibrant and precise sensitivity, Hendricks strived to free his community from the burden of a white-centred outlook on art.
Representation of black figures:
The marginalization of the African American community is also at the core of Kerry James Marshall’s oeuvre, who bases most of his work on art-historical references, attempting to rewrite the past by placing blackness at the centre. Marshall aims to battle the never-ending stereotypical representation of black figures in art and the popular media, by devoting himself to creating rigorous paintings celebrating the beauty, complexity, and richness of a non-negotiable blackness.
Emphasis on the human figure:
The human figure has always been the primary subject matter for most African art, and this emphasis even influenced certain European traditions. For example, in the fifteenth century, Portugal traded with the Sapi culture near the Ivory Coast in West Africa, who created elaborate ivory saltcellars that were hybrids of African and European designs, most notably in the addition of the human figure. Another common theme is the inter-morphosis of humans and animals.
New Representations of Christian Art:
Regardless of one’s beliefs, religious characters are mostly depicted as white. These three Black artists decided to do something about it.
- Black Jesus by Titus Kaphar:
- Madonna and Child by Tyler Ballon:
- Birth of Eve by Harmonia Rosales:
Afrocentric artistry plays a crucial role in reclaiming narratives, challenging stereotypes, and fostering a deeper understanding of the richness and complexity of African and African diasporic cultures. It celebrates resilience, fosters cultural pride, and contributes to a more inclusive global artistic landscape.
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