Iconic Blaxploitation posters

AIGA Eye on Design looked at 5 Blaxploitation posters that defined the era including Super Fly and Foxy Brown:

This poster is rare in how women were depicted. Women in Blaxploitation film posters often were just there to adorn men. This image changes the narrative and features actress Pam Grier front and center, independent in her own strength. “Her films are the best of what Blaxploitation had to offer,” says Howard. “She brought an undeniable movie star quality to her performances. Her posters are so striking because she’s so unique to the history of cinema—she’s never rescued by men. She has agency. She’s sexually objectified but is the driver of the action in her films. Her role has endured in history compared to others from the time.”

And speaking of Foxy Brown, check out the fitting room scene from Jackie Brown but synced together, both starring Pam Grier.

An interview with 'Women of Colour in Japan' director, Amarachi Nwosu

Women of Color in Japan Documentary | Women Navigating Life and Culture in Tokyo through Creativity

For Tokyo Weekender, Cezary Jan Strusiewicz interviewed Amarachi Nwosu, the director of ‘Women of Colour in Japan’ and two of the documentary’s co-stars, Uzochi Okoronkwo and Ameya:

Women of Color in Japan focuses on three people. There’s Ameya, a Japan-born filmmaker, photographer, writer and co-founder of the visual media collective Ikix Studio. Uzochi Okoronkwo is a Nigerian-American stylist and owner of the vintage online boutique KO Vintage. And then, there’s Tiffany Cadillac, a Tokyo-born DJ, singer and producer of Japanese and Jamaican descent. We talked with Ameya, Nwosu and Okoronkwo about their lives in Japan as women of color and about how their work, vision and their very existence can help to spread awareness of the ever changing fabric of Japanese society.

It’s a good interview with interesting insights from all three covering everything from the treatment of women of colour in Japan to the collective struggles of WoC and Japanese women within the country:

9. Do you think non-Japanese WOC should be involved in the struggles of Japanese women?

Ameya: I think WOC in general should be allies to other minorities in this country. Whether that is Japanese women, LGBT, or less-able-bodied people, etc. None of us are free until we are all free. If we work to support each other, then we can create changes on a national and perhaps international level.

Related to Japanese women and PoCs in Japan: A blog post about Japanese geishas and kimonos, Seitō – a 1911 Japanese magazine exclusively for women, and Living While Black, in Japan

A directory of Black designers from around the world

Blacks Who Design is a directory of Black designers that aims to “inspire new designers, encourage people to diversify their feeds, and discover amazing individuals to join your team.” While the designers are mainly concentrated in North America (USA + Canada), there are designers from places like the UK, Poland, Nigeria, Kenya, and Germany to name a few. What’s more, it’s not just for Black designers as the site explains:

If you’re not a Black designer, this site’s for you too :)

Reply to a recruiter: Tired of recruiting emails? Instead of hitting archive, reply with a link to this site.

Target your mentoring: Dedicate your lunch breaks towards mentoring people that might not normally get access to you.

Volunteer: Consider blocking off some time to teach design to younger students.

It was also nice to see a few of my friends in there so definitely check it out.

Directory-related: Rememory: a creative directory for Black women and non-binary people and FlyGirl: a community and safe space for womxn

bell hooks (1952–2021)

bell hooks has passed away at the age of 69. It’s a tragic loss to the world and she will be sorely missed but her work in writing, feminism, and activism lives on. I remember reading her essay ‘Plantation Mistress or Soul Sister‘ for my dissertation and how it changed a lot of my perspectives on Black music, Madonna, and Blackness as well as giving me new ones.

Below are some links to obituaries, dedications, and essential reading for those unfamiliar with her work. In the words of Raquel Willis:

If you’re just learning about bell hooks, there’s no shame. You can always read her words and meet her on the page.

Articles and papers

Videos

Books (note: links are from Bookshop but aren’t affiliate links)

'We Are History' examines the links between art, colonialism and climate change

We are History | Trailer

For gal-dem, Lauren Dei spoke to the artists behind a new exhibition called ‘We Are History. The show, curated by Ekow Eshun, displays art that tells the stories of colonialism and its pivotal role in global warming and the harsh realities of climate change.

Featured artists include Alberta Whittle, Otobong Nkanga, and Malala Andrialavidrazana.

“We have a saying in Barbados charting the timeline of hurricane season,” Alberta tells gal-dem via phone call.“‘June – too soon, July – stand by, August – come it must, September – remember, October – all over.’ In 2021, the hurricane season began in April. Climate colonialism means the hurricane seasons are growing longer and longer, leaving the country on tenterhooks for over half the calendar year.”

An early scene in the film shows the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in 2019. The camera pans above the wreckage of the decimated Bahama Islands. An estimated 13,000 homes were severely damaged or lost during the Category five storm that left the national airport underwater and saw over 6,000 evacuees rescued by air. 

Head over to Somerset House to see We Are History, which runs until 6th February 2022.

A UK Black History Month Post (2021)

I’m going to quote myself from last year because it’s still relevant:

It’s been a challenging year to navigate and, needless to say, Black people are tired.

I’ve not really written anything specific about Black History Month this year but I have thrown in some Black British content here and there. So I’m going to emulate last year’s BHM round up post for 2021. It’s been tough finding decent BHM content because so much of it is whitewashed or performative. People are retreading the same steps and the same “look at these famous slaves!” lists of influential Black people, often written by white people. Or pledges for more action that were made last year and the year before. I’m also not pleased about a few articles regarding more Black presence in the police force which is the most counterintuitive suggestion to make in any month, let alone Black History Month. But I digress.

Same format as last year—some stuff from the Web, some stuff from the Cultrface archives, and people you should follow.

From the Internet

From the Cultrface archives

People to follow

See 2020’s list for more people to follow

  1. Demi Colleen: Twitter | Instagram
  2. Kuchenga: Twitter | Instagram
  3. Emma Dabiri: Twitter | Instagram
  4. Sareta Fontaine: Twitter | Instagram | Website
  5. Lauren-Nicole: Twitter | Instagram | Linktree
  6. Nathaniel A. Cole: Twitter | Instagram | Linktree
  7. Matilda Egere-Cooper: Twitter | Instagram | Linktree
  8. Tanya Compas: Twitter | Instagram
  9. Nicole Crentsil: Twitter | Instagram | Linktree
  10. Ronke Lawal: Twitter | Instagram | Website

Rhea Dillon on 'Nonbody Nonthing No Thing', her debut solo exhibition

“Being Black British is part of my ontic and ontology so it’s always present in my work because it is me.” Photography by Theo Christelis, via V.O Curations

For AnOther, Sagal Mohammed spoke to Rhea Dillon about her first solo exhibition, entitled Nonbody Nonthing No Thing. The Black British-Jamaican artist, writer and poet uses a variety of media to interpret what she calls the “‘rules of representation’ as a device to undermine contemporary Western culture” and “‘humane afrofuturism’ as a practice of bringing forward the humane and equality-led perspectives on how we visualise Black bodies”.

Nonbody Nonthing No Thing is one of those works, showing abstractions of Blackness in the form of 7 paintings and sculptures. The above image depicts “landing” and how the Diasporic experience for Black Africans and Caribbeans meant leaving the known and landing in the unknown. That fragmented journey, which doesn’t stop when the plane touches down or the ship anchors, is captured brilliantly in this work.

Nonbody Nonthing No Thing is at VO Curations in London from 15th Oct–11th Nov 2021 so get there if you can.

Tina M. Campt's 'A Black Gaze'

I follow MIT’s tech blog and stumbled upon a book from their press called ‘A Black Gaze’:

In A Black Gaze, Tina Campt examines Black contemporary artists who are shifting the very nature of our interactions with the visual through their creation and curation of a distinctively Black gaze. Their work—from Deana Lawson’s disarmingly intimate portraits to Arthur Jafa’s videos of the everyday beauty and grit of the Black experience, from Kahlil Joseph’s films and Dawoud Bey’s photographs to the embodied and multimedia artistic practice of Okwui Okpokwasili, Simone Leigh, and Luke Willis Thompson—requires viewers to do more than simply look; it solicits visceral responses to the visualization of Black precarity.

With regular discourse around cultural appropriation and Black art that falls under the white gaze, it’s important to bring the conversation back to Black people creating for Black people and what that means for us.

You can buy a copy from Bookshop (affiliate link) or head to the book’s official MIT Press page for more stockists.

Kyndall Cunningham's interview with filmmaker Ashley O’Shay

Unapologetic Trailer

Kyndall Cunningham spoke to filmmaker Ashley O’Shay about her latest documentary, ‘Unapologetic. The film examines the way Black organisers in Chicago—primarily focusing on two young Black women, Janaé Bonsu and Bella BAHHS—came together in the wake of Rekia Boyd and Laquan McDonald’s murders by the police.

H: Given the history of infiltration in social movements, how were you able to build trust with this community?

AO: I think being a Black woman helped, as far as them being comfortable and feeling like they could open up to me. But I just tried to keep showing up as much as possible. Even when I wasn’t there with the camera or doing an interview, I would try to go to their different rallies to just show support and amplify the work they were doing. I think after a while, when someone keeps showing up like that, you can build that trust with them. And I think also that as I was building stronger relationships with my main subjects, Janaé and Bella, that helped make other organizers in the space feel more comfortable with me as well.

[…]

H: The film is also very nuanced in showing the importance of Black women leaders but also dispelling this myth that representational politics automatically lead to liberation for Black people, particularly with Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot.

AO: Yeah. We see people like Lightfoot in administrative positions, you know, running a campaign and uplifting herself as this Black gay woman, but everyone knowing, like, hey girl. We saw you at the Chicago police board hearings telling people to shut up after their time was up, and basically saying there’s nothing productive about the work that young Black people are doing. And she has a history as a prosecutor and all these other things that show you that all skinfolk ain’t kinfolk. I think depending on the space you’re in, it’s going to differ how your identity does or doesn’t show up. I think it’s really important to remember the communities that are actually doing the work for us.

Lightfoot is an enemy to progress and she knows it. I am grateful for the work of Black women who actually care such as Ashley O’Shay, Janaé Bonsu, Bella BAHHS, and countless others—past and present.

Rikki Byrd on the anti-Black history of American department stores

I, like many other Black people, have been followed around stores for no reason other than my race. Add general anxiety to the mix and that makes me feel even more uncomfortable to just… browse. Rikki Byrd chronicled this anti-Black racism for Vox, via the depiction of Marshall Field’s in the hit series, Lovecraft Country:

Set in 1950s Chicago, Lovecraft Country’s deliberate insertion of Marshall Field’s exemplifies the show’s commitment to blending horror, magic, and science fiction with historical references to explore racial injustices faced by Black people in the US. Ruby’s determination to work at Marshall Field’s not only references racial discrimination in department stores writ large, but her persistent return to this store specifically is reflective of its impact on the city.

Now a Macy’s in downtown Chicago, Marshall Field’s was once a pillar in the Windy City, transforming the retail experience from merely an errand to an outing worth looking forward to. From its ceiling designed by Tiffany & Co. to its series of retail firsts, the building has a storied history complete with success, failure, and innovation. It also has a history of racism that long impacted Black Chicagoans eager, like Ruby, to work and shop there.

For more stories about anti-Blackness in stores, read this piece from Cassi Pittman Claytor, Traci Parker’s Black Christmas in American Department Stores, and Michael Liscky’s article on racism outliving the American department store.

Sonya Clark's Black hair art

Sonya Clark, “Afro Abe II” (2010), five-dollar bill and thread, 4 x 6 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection (Photo © Sonya Clark; Photo by Lee Stalsworth)

For Hyperallergic, Lowery Stokes Sims reviewed Sonya Clark’s exhibition “Sonya Clark: Tatter, Bristle and Mend which featured at the National Museum of Women in Arts between 3rd March to 27th June this year.

Renowned for her explorations of the cultural and political aspects of hair — specifically Black hair — Clark does not disappoint in this dizzying survey of 100 works executed over the last 25 years. Essays in the catalogue adroitly outline the polemics of black hair in its natural state in our current societal context, complement Clark’s seeming endless hirsute permutations.

The pieces are remarkable in their depictions of the US and their uses of Black hair, something heavily weaponised and abused in that same country. My favourite is “Afro Abe II” (above), a five-dollar bill but Abraham Lincoln has an Afro. I love it so much.

Zinesters of colour discuss the forgotten origins of their work

Christine Fernando spoke to a group of zine-makers of colour for USA Today.

Zines have long been a way for marginalized communities to share stories, spread information, build community and organize movements, several archivists and zine-makers said. Often, they offer historical records of communities that have been ignored in other publications. But many zine-makers (“zinesters”) of color say their communities have only recently received credit and gained visibility for their contributions.

One of the interviewed zinesters described her feelings of isolation at zine events:

Marya Errin Jones said she’s often one of the only Black women at some zine festivals and events. White people often skip her table because “they assume my zines are only for Black and brown people or are about a topic they weren’t interested in or don’t want to talk about,” she said.

She added: “It’s always isolating. Sometimes you wonder, ‘What am I doing here?’”

The last time I went to Nottingham Contemporary, I spent a lot of time in their zine section, reading through the various DIY magazines and diaries that people left behind. They were unique and uncensored views into their lives and the groups they were part of. I loved them (I even emailed someone to compliment their work and took photos to read later.) It’s imperative that zinesters of colour get the love, space, and recognition they deserve and don’t get pushed out by the sanitised homogeny of the mainstream.

Black Archives: a multimedia showcase of the Black experience

Archiving is so important in an information era that favours the new and quickly discards the old when it’s deemed surplus to requirements (read: it’s not making profit). This is especially true for Black cultures and Black Archives works to change that.

[…] Through an evolving visual exploration, Black Archives provides a dynamic accessibility to a Black past, present, and future.

Going beyond the norm, its lens examines the nuance of Black life: alive and ever-vibrant to both the everyday and iconic — providing insight and inspiration to those seeking to understand the legacies that preceded their own.

Besides archiving, Black Archives also offers:

  • Content creation and visual curation
  • Archival research and licensing
  • Social strategy and creative direction

For more, check out the Black Archives website.

The celebratory art of Aurélia Durand

Aurélia Durand is a French illustrator with a penchant for vibrant designs depicting Black people in joyful, proud, and empowered poses.

Her client list is a who’s who of major brands, including:

With so much bleakness in the world at the moment and heightened Black trauma, vivid celebratory images like Aurélia’s are a welcome relief and a reminder that Blackness is multifaceted and joyous.