On blackness: Five fab sites for art-loving people
The alliteration and hyphenated adjective were the real reason for the headline On blackness: Five fab sites for art-loving people. This article or, rather, listicle, is really about blogs and other online platforms, curated with a strong visual-art core and accessible to everyone, but with a particular focus on art from Africa and the diaspora.
On the continent, websites like African Digital Art explore the realm of digital art and spotlight artists such as Kenyan photographer Osborne Macharia and French-Guyanese and Danish new media artist Tabita Rezaire. While in the diaspora, sites like indiewire.com’s Shadow and Act tap into the celluloid side of the arts and discuss films and filmmakers, asking pertinent questions like, “Is the classification of a film as a ‘Black Film’ erroneous and limiting?”.
And website C&, or Contemporaryand.com, gives insight into the art world from an African perspective, as well as tumblr Black Contemporary Art. Africasacountry.com often features mixtapes from music in and outside Africa and analysis of the arts, and so does OkayAfrica. The list is endless. So I sifted through a few of my favourite international blogs and social media platforms to present my top five sites dedicated to conversations around visual art and culture from the POC world.
“Where are all the young Black art critics?” was the question that launched Arts.Black, writes the site’s Brooklyn-based editor Jessica Lynne. This was also the question posed by her colleague Taylor Renee Aldridge, which started a conversation and got Lynne thinking about the young POC art critics that do exist. “Yes. There is indeed a strikingly brilliant generation of young Black art critics on the scene. However, their work lives outside of mainstream publications. Outside the walls of white art spaces and instead on our stoops and porches, in our sistafriend happy hours, or in the midday twitter rants.”
Kehinde Wiley’s The Father of Aviation taken by Taylor Renee Aldridge (Arts.Black)
With engaging essays, interviews and reviews, and an insightful tumblr, today Arts.Black functions as a necessary alternative to the art and media mainstream and works as a “platform for art criticism from black perspectives predicated on the belief that art criticism should be an accessible dialogue – a tool through which we question, celebrate and talk back to the global world of contemporary art”.
Art News Africa
Whether you need a daily dose of striking imagery to get you intrigued and inspired, or if you want to catch up on art news, this Instagram account is stirring and works like an index for art from Africa and the diaspora. Founded in 2014 by Nkechi Bakare, Art News Africa is a social media publication based in Lagos, Nigeria.
The platform’s Instagram feed is filled with reposts from IG users and includes a wide selection of contemporary or archival images from exhibitions, street festivals and posters. It has everything from black and white images from South Africa during apartheid to more recent street art in Gambia. This site is definitely one for the books.
Okay, this is not one website, but rather a person connected to phenomenal platforms highlighting African art and culture: Amy Sall’s Instagram page and personal website, as well as an upcoming journal called Sunu, which is a “Journal of African Affairs, Critical Thought + Aesthetics”, according to its website. Whether it’s a still from a Djibril Diop Mambéty film or snapshot from Glenn Ligon’s exhibition in the US, these arresting photographs on Sall and Sunu’s Instagram pages give a fresh perspective on Africa and the images it produces and inspires.
Amy Sall at an exhibition of El Anatsui’s work. (Amysall.com)
Born in Senegal and raised in New York, Sall recently completed her master’s degree in human rights with a special focus on the right to development and youth empowerment in sub-Saharan African.
>She is also working on Sunu, which means “our” in Wolof and, according to an Elle interview with her, “The inspiration [for Sunu] came from a few things, one of which was seeing how people would engage with my posts on Instagram. I would share images taken from an African context and this would spark comments and debates on the subject. This gave me the idea to start something where we could have conversations around issues, art and culture beyond Instagram.”
With “art, music, literature, news and events from the Afro-European diaspora” at its nucleus, Afropean website is cool and cultured, and delves into history as well as identity. Part of the Guardian newspaper’s Africa Network, Afropean explores “the social, cultural and aesthetic interplay of black and European cultures, and the synergy of styles and ideas brought about because of this union”.
With a UK-based team, the site features album and movie reviews, breath-taking Photo of the Day posts and engaging articles on sociology, art and more. And I can’t forget the in-depth interviews and flirty listicles, like this one: “Black Europe on Film: 10 Afropean movies.”
John Edwin Mason
Having written for publications like Time magazine and art site Hyperallergic, John Edwin Mason’s Twitter feed works as a directory for photography and photographic-related criticism from the continent and diaspora. (His timeline also features notes on visual arts and politics.)
Mason, a photographer, also teaches African history and the history of photography at the University of Virginia, and authored One Love, Ghoema Beat: Inside the Cape Town Carnival. He is also working on a book on legendary photographer Gordon Parks and has written articles on photographer such as Margaret Bourke-White and South Africa’s George Hallet. With all this knowledge of photography at his disposal, is there any surprise that his tweets could school you in 140 characters? Interesting comments and images from the archive and present can also be found on his Instagram trove.