Art of the African DiasporaArt of the African Diaspora

January 4 - August 29

Art of the African Diaspora

Museums oftendisplay the art of the African Diaspora,.*The term is regularly found in books, at events,and in curators’ job titles. But what does the term “AfricanDiaspora” mean? It often refers to art made around the world by Black artists. Yet Africa alone alone is diverse, both ethnically and culturally. Does someone have to be Black to be part of this group? Is there a difference between the African Diaspora and the Black Diaspora?Can you be African and be part of the Diaspora? Who gets to say who is part of this group?

Defining the definition of the African Diaspora remains a hotly debated topic There is general agreement among scholars that the term reflects the subjugation and marginalization of Black people, stemming from the involuntary movement from the Atlantic, Trans-Saharan, and Indian Ocean slave trades, while also including individuals who voluntarily migrate. It is a term that expresses a breadth of experiences, one that connects Black peoples across time, continents, and cultures, but it can also homogenize. It is a term that centers Blackness, while allowing for the “muddiness” of identity.

This display of historic and contemporary art questions and complicates this often-used term. It encourages us to reflect on how language can group us in ways that can be helpful and harmful. In some ways, language can elevate groups that have been deliberately overlooked, create new connections, and inspire conversations; in others, language can be restrictive by categorizing us into boxes without fully acknowledging or celebrating our fluid identities.

As conversations around the African Diaspora shift and evolve, so too will this display, aided by the museum actively acquiring works that reflect these varied, global experiences.

 

*Diaspora, pronounced “dai·a·spr·uh”: a scattered population whose origins lie in a different geographic location.

Exhibition Programs

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Artist

Curator

Artists + Curator

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Blackmon-Perry Curatorial Fellow in African American Art and Art of the African Diaspora

Heather Nickels

Heather Nickels joined the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art (MBMA) in August 2019 as the Joyce Blackmon Curatorial Fellow of African American Art and Art of the African Diaspora. Prior to arriving in Memphis, she completed a M.A. with Distinction in the History of Art from The Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Her dissertation focused on the short-lived “Little Paris Group” art collective and workshop, which was co-founded by two women, Lois Mailou Jones and Celine Tabary, in the 1940s and 1950s in Washington D.C. She graduated cum laude with a B.A in Art History from Barnard College in 2016. Her thesis explored the representation of servants and domestic workers in eighteenth-century French paintings. Ms. Nickels has worked for several American non- and for-profit arts institutions, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, The Courtauld Gallery, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Sperone Westwater Gallery and Andrea Rosen Gallery. For two years, she worked as a project research associate for independent art historian Dr. Denise Murrell on the exhibition, Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today | Le Modèle noir, de Géricault à Matisse, which opened at the Wallach Gallery, Columbia University in 2018 and later traveled to the Orsay Museum in Paris.

Heather Nickels

Blackmon-Perry Curatorial Fellow in African American Art and Art of the African Diaspora

Heather Nickels

Heather Nickels joined the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art (MBMA) in August 2019 as the Joyce Blackmon Curatorial Fellow of African American Art and Art of the African Diaspora. Prior to arriving in Memphis, she completed a M.A. with Distinction in the History of Art from The Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Her dissertation focused on the short-lived “Little Paris Group” art collective and workshop, which was co-founded by two women, Lois Mailou Jones and Celine Tabary, in the 1940s and 1950s in Washington D.C. She graduated cum laude with a B.A in Art History from Barnard College in 2016. Her thesis explored the representation of servants and domestic workers in eighteenth-century French paintings. Ms. Nickels has worked for several American non- and for-profit arts institutions, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, The Courtauld Gallery, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Sperone Westwater Gallery and Andrea Rosen Gallery. For two years, she worked as a project research associate for independent art historian Dr. Denise Murrell on the exhibition, Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today | Le Modèle noir, de Géricault à Matisse, which opened at the Wallach Gallery, Columbia University in 2018 and later traveled to the Orsay Museum in Paris.

Program Recordings

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Resources

Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?

Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?

The American art theorist Linda Nochlin (1931-2017) posed this question as the title of a pioneering article in 1971. This essay was considered one of the first major works of Feminist art history, it has become a set text for those who study art internationally, and it is influential in many other fields.

Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? by Linda Nochlin