Written By Jonel Juste for Artburst Miami
This story also features on WLRN and Miami New Times
Its name is a fusion of two words, Africa and kinship. For Black History Month 2023, AfriKin is presenting “The Gaze Africana,” an art exhibit showcasing the work of artists inspired by the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., the African American icon and civil rights movement leader.
Presented in collaboration with the North Miami Community Redevelopment Agency (NMCRA), the exhibition is on display through Wednesday, Feb. 28, at the Scott Galvin Community Center.
For three years, AfriKin has been offering annual art exhibitions during Black History Month and Art Basel Miami Beach/Miami Art Week, as signature events of the AfriKin series, according to Alfonso D’Niscio Brooks, AfriKin’s founder and chief executive officer.
The non-profit foundation has been promoting Black Art for over 15 years in Miami, he says.
In the exhibit, “The Gaze Africana,” the term “gaze” is used to describe the way in which African artists are exploring their identity through a contemporary African fine art lens, explains Brooks. It also refers, he continues, to the way in which African artists are looking at their own culture, heritage, and history through their own unique perspective.
“The Gaze Africana” is a way for African artists to challenge the dominant narrative of the African experience. “Through their artwork, African artists are able to present a different perspective on African culture and history that is often overlooked or ignored,” says Brooks.
This concept has been explored in a variety of ways, from the use of traditional African symbols to the use of bright colors and vibrant patterns, along with the use of modern technology and materials.
“The exhibit also serves as a platform for discussing the issues of racial injustice and inequality that continue to plague our society today,” says Brooks.
The exhibit aims to celebrate the beauty of Black culture and the Black world. And what better occasion than Black History Month to do so?
“Celebrating Black art during Black History Month is important because it recognizes the contributions of African and African Diaspora artists and their unique perspectives. It is a way to honor their diversity, creativity, and resilience,” according to Brooks. “It is also an opportunity to learn more about the history and culture of people of African origin, as well as to gain insight into our struggles and triumphs.”
Guest artist George Camille from Seychelles still feels there are a lot of obstacles for Black artists to overcome.
“Black artists have gained tremendous recognition and visibility over the last few decades, but there are still a lot of challenges . . . Black History Month presents the world with a constant reminder of the role and importance that Black creators continue to play in the development of art on a global platform,” says Camille.
“Celebrating Black Art during Black History Month is important because it promotes Black history, but even more importantly, it is fundamental to its construction,” adds Ines-Noor Chaqroun from Morocco.
AfriKin’s exhibitions feature a range of internationally acclaimed, emerging or mid-career artists. They are from various parts of the world, including Africa, the United States, the Caribbean, Haiti, Latin America, Europe, and the Indian Ocean.
Exhibiting artists in addition to Camilee and Chaqroun are Doba Afolabi (Nigeria), Philippe Dodard (Haiti), Angèle Essamba Etoundi (Cameroon, Netherlands), Joaquin Gonzalez (Spain), Bayunga Kalieuka (Congo), Ricardo Lion Molina (Cuba), Ras Mosera (Sint Maarten), Musa Swallah (Ghana), Carlos Salas (Colombia). Jamaican artists Camille Chedda, John Campbell, Katrina Coombs, Kimani Beckford, Greg Bailey, Yrneh Gabon, Oneika Russell; United States artists include Aisha Tandiwe Bell, Niki Lopez and Amore Kreative.
“One of our goals with AfriKin is to be a conduit that connects Continental Africa and the diaspora. So, at all our exhibitions we do our best to present a good balance of artistry that highlights this amalgamation,” explains Brooks.
Participating for the first time in an AfriKin Art exhibition, Camille recognizes that “being part of the Afrikin art exhibition will allow me as an artist living and working on an isolated island off the African coast to gain access to a wider audience as well as be part of a bigger art community that has a common agenda.”
Camille has three large acrylic paintings on canvas in the show including “The Company of Strangers,” which was selected for the recent Dakar Biennale in Senegal.
Returning to AfriKin is Yrneh Gabon, a Jamaican artist and activist. He believes that AfriKin, acting on its social and cultural responsibilities, is how to engage people from Africa and its diaspora. “It is necessary that we re-educate, and I am a firm believer in re-education when it comes to history and culture, “ he says.
The Caribbean artist says that one month is not enough to celebrate Black History Month. “But anytime and reason to celebrate is worth celebrating. Gabon will showcase his new body of work inspired from a conversation with curator and educator Dr. Babacar Mbow on Ghanaian writer Ayi Kwei Armah’s book “The Beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born.”
In addition, several programs will accompany “The Gaze Africana,” including contemporary dance, jazz, and African spiritual music performances, panel discussions, spoken word, film screenings, and business networking. All events are free to public, but RSVP is requested.
“AfriKin utilizes cultural programming to highlight the importance of art and culture in the reshaping of communities. (The) activations and programming are focused on the development of cultural industry, advancement through strategic partnerships and kinship across ethnic lines,” Brooks adds.