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In July of 2007, during a speech at Cheikh Anta Diop University in the Senegalese capital of Dakar, then French president Nicolas Sarkozy infamously said: “The tragedy of Africa is that the African man has never really entered history.”
“The African peasant has known only the eternal renewal of time via the endless repetition of the same actions and the same words,” Sarkozy continued in front of a shocked audience. “In this mentality, where everything always starts over again, there is no place for human adventure nor for any idea of progress.”
Sarkozy’s remarks outraged African intellectuals who accused the French president of arrogance and ignorance rooted in colonialist thought. “This view of Africa’s distant past as a dark age without history is deeply connected with the legacy of slavery,” explained French historian François-Xavier Fauvelle in response to Sarkozy’s address. “It’s part of an ideology that developed in the western world from the 16th century onwards, when Christian western European powers began to trade slaves with Africa, and between Africa and the New World.”
Countering this pernicious erasure of Africa’s rich civilizations is the work of Ghanaian-Canadian artist Ekow Nimako, who explores the history of the continent’s glorious medieval kingdoms by crafting elaborate Afrofuturistic installations made of Lego bricks.
In Building Black: Civilizations, part of an ongoing series of Lego-made sculptures, Nimako imagines the legacies of past sub-Saharan civilizations into the distant future. The centerpiece of the project, “Kumbi Saleh 3020 CE” (2019), takes its name from the capital city of the ancient Ghana Empire. Constructed with 100,000 black Lego pieces, the 30-square-foot sculpture renders the lost trade capital into a futuristic, bustling metropolis with detailed references to the Islamic influences that shaped its architecture and history.
The “Civilizations” chapter of Nimako’s Building Black series was the subject of a 2019 solo exhibition at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada. The sprawling Kumbi Saleh piece is now housed in the museum’s collection. Previous chapters in the series — AMORPHIA and Mythos — respectively explored West African mask-making traditions and imagery drawn from west African proverbs.
Mythos included the monumental Cavalier Noir (2018), which features a seven-foot Black rider atop a Black unicorn. Conceptualized in collaboration with Canadian filmmaker Director X (Julien Christian Lutz), the piece “subverts the dominant imagination of public monuments and centers Black narratives,” Nimako says on his website.
“Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants—11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data—a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were…
In 1850, when Dr. Robert W. Gibbes commissioned J. T. Zealy to make daguerreotypes of persons held in slavery in and around Columbia, South Carolina, for Harvard Professor Louis Agassiz to use in support of his theory that African people were a separate species, daguerreotypes were at the height of fashion.
The show, which honors the 50th anniversary of an exhibition history once ignored, continues a series of projects documenting Wilmington’s contemporary art scene.
he ownership of images has a long and nuanced legal history, which has evolved dramatically in recent years as cultural standards and photographic technologies have rapidly advanced
Renty and his daughter Delia. Renty was an enslaved African, kidnapped from the Congo, sold and forced into slave labor on the South Carolina plantation of B.F. Taylor
Two K-12 art teachers will each receive a $1,000 cash gift and an additional $500 to put toward classroom art supplies. Nominations are due October 31.
As a scholar of African American history and photography whose work has focused on the status of violent images in museums and archives, I fully support the validity of Ms. Tamara Lanier’s claim and the amicus brief.
The daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor, Delia, Drana, Alfred, Jack, George Fassena, and Jem remained in an unused storage cabinet until 1975, when it was discovered by an employee of the Peabody Museum.
I am writing in support of the amicus curiae brief submitted by Professor Ariella Aïsha Azoulay of Brown University for the full restitution of the daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor and his daughter Delia, currently held by Harvard University, to their familial descendant, Tamara Lanier.