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Black Womanhood Artists to Visit Campus This Summer

Hood Quarterly, summer 2008

The Hood Museum of Art celebrates the 2008 Summer Arts Festival with an exciting and diverse array of free programs for our campus and local communities. This summer’s theme, Africas, will enliven the campus by focusing on the vitality and creativity of that continent’s many cultures. The Hood’s contribution to the festival will be comprised of talks, presentations, and performances by internationally renowned artists included in the ongoing exhibition Black Womanhood: Images, Icons, and Ideologies of the African Body.

Emerging South African artists Zaneli Muholi and Senzeni Marasela will launch our summer programming during the week of June 23 with a discussion in the museum and an artist’s lecture, offering an in-depth look at their own experiences as black women artists. Zanele Muholi’s photographs represent the black female body in a frank yet intimate way that challenges the history of the portrayal of black women’s bodies in documentary photography while bringing to the forefront the harsh reality of the lives of gay and lesbian South Africans. Senzeni Marasela uses photography, photocopy transfers, silkscreening and handicraft to explore collective and personal memory, while illuminating issues of the continued impact of colonialism and the place of women in male-dominated South African culture.

On July 25, “Performing Black Womanhood: Film, Photography, and New Media Arts” will bring together an extraordinary group of international artists to discuss their art and the medium in which they work. This artists’ roundtable, moderated by South African art critic Rory Bester, will present new art by Kenyan-German artist Ingrid Mwangi, New York–based Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu, and South African artist Berni Searle. Mwangi will perform with her most recent video, “Constant Triumph” (2008). A tribute to Mwangi’s sister, the singer Helen MwangiTaylor, who recently died of cancer, “Constant Triumph” confronts the taboo of death in an effort to embrace life. Working with photography, video and film, Berni Searle’s lens-based installations reference ongoing explorations around history, memory, and place. Although best known for her glamorous yet unsettling collages, Wangechi Mutu returns to video in her recent work, explaining, “Video, for me, is a means by which to dramatize urgent issues, to invent and reinvent.”

The Black Womanhood Film Festival on July 16, with a reception catered by Taste of Africa, will feature a unique selection of independent films that explore stereotypical images of black women and women’s ideas of self worth, the politics of color within the African American community, and black pride and identity in contemporary Africa. The viewings and discussion will provide an additional informal forum for engaging with the multiple dialogues surrounding Black Womanhood.

Finally, Nigerian playwright and poet Esiaba Irobi will lead an exciting talk and workshop on the tradition of female masquerade, a theme that runs throughout and unites the historic and contemporary art on view in Black Womanhood. We invite everyone to join us for these exciting programs; for more information, please see the calendar section of this issue.

The Hood Museum’s summer programs are co-sponsored by the Fannie and Alan Leslie Center for the Humanities, the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding, the 2008 Summer Arts Festival, and the Allen and Joan Bildner Endowment for Human and Intergroup Relations.

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