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Pan-African politics in African American visual art: Where have we been? Where are we going?

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From the nineteenth century sculptures of Edmonia Lewis to contemporary art installations by Pat Ward Williams, the history and aesthetics of African cultures have inspired art-making and political solidarity for artists of African descent in the United States. This article examines the ways in which African American artists have explored diverse aspects of African history and cultures in their artwork. Their desire to create a Pan-African community by visualizing common black experiences expresses their solidarity with black struggles in Africa and desire to reconnect with an African heritage lost through the violence of the Atlantic slave trade.

The article discusses the role of Pan-Africanism as a political ideal through which people of African descent can work toward political freedom. It discusses the visual history of Pan-Africanist ideology by African American artists and explores the current possibility for transnational reciprocity and identification despite cultural and ethnic differences between the African and American contexts.

Keywords: African American; Pan-African; art; globalization; solidarity

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Santa Clara University.

Publication date: July 1, 2006

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  • The International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics is committed to analyzing the politics of communication(s) and cultural processes. It addresses cultural politics in their local, international and global dimensions, recognizing equally the importance of issues defined by their specific cultural geography and those that traverse cultures and nations.
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