Many black female artists have made an impact on how people understand black culture and its contribution to western society. However, there are so many unsung heroines, talented artists and activists that sadly, you may never have heard of because of the invisibility that black female artists have to contend with, even today.
The women I have chosen to highlight in this article are leading women, but not in the modern sense. They lead as pioneers and change-makers who have challenged, fought for justice and changed perceptions of society through their persistence and determination, paving the way for younger generations.
These women have achieved respect and admiration for their art practices, activism and bodies of work, despite the backdrop of racial and gender discrimination. They have persistently refused to be ignored, marginalised or pigeonholed by their identities. By exploring their own selves, their cultures and the pursuit of equality they have educated the world around them about the beauty and tragedy of their cultural histories. Most importantly, they have earned recognition for the achievements of black women as artists, storytellers and preservers of historical record.
In increasingly uncertain times it is easy to lose hope and to believe that individual citizens are unable to affect a nation’s, or even the planet's trajectory. But as climate advocate Al Gore stated despair ‘is just another form of denial…we don’t have time for it.’ It is this attitude of hope for change from which the ArtsPositive Magazine emerged. Instead of focusing on what can’t be changed, the magazine focuses on what people, specifically artists, are doing in order to connect with people and create a climate of sensitivity in which it is possible for change to happen.
Art can change attitudes, perceptions and ways of being through large and tiny actions. It could be that learning a new creative expression can lead to insights that change the way one sees a culture, or it could be that going to an exhibition gives new insight into the reality of climate change, which can sometimes seem distant from everyday life. Art helps to visualise large and abstract concepts, and it helps to make emotional connections in ways that facts and information sometimes can’t.
"My scars remind me that I did indeed survive my deepest wounds. They remind me that the damage life has inflicted on me has, in many places, left me stronger and more resilient."- Steve Goodier, United Methodist minister and author.
How does the human spirit endure the unendurable? What is that light that keeps burning in the deepest, darkest chamber of our being and illuminates our way through a catastrophe? And, what happens after we’ve survived? That is what artist Debasmita Dasgupta and poet Claire Rosslyn Wilson explore in the poignant More Than Skin Deep — a heartfelt homage to the strength of women in the form of a powerful yet warm, illustrated series of poems. The series explores unshakable strength, the true definition of beauty, the diverse faces of resilience, battles that shape, scare, transform, and strengthen us, and yet are never powerful enough to define us.
Comic book artist Jim Lee has rightly said, “One of the key characteristics of the comic book medium is that it is not brought to life by just one voice.” Another crucial characteristic is how deeply comics resonate with us because they speak directly to our brains’ pictorial bias.
Sharad Sharma, an Indian cartoonist, realised the importance of these characteristics and utilised this potential of comics to give voice to the under-represented and silent majority of indigenous people. He is the founder of World Comics Network and conceptualised the idea of Grassroots Comics, through which he took the art of cartooning and comics to the rural hinterland of India and other parts of the globe, as an alternative mode of communication for the common people. He has conducted extensive workshops with various organisations across the globe and has been part of the people’s movements in remote and conflict areas and initiated issue-focused campaigns using the medium of grassroots comics on various crisis including infanticide, feticide, child rights, corporal punishment, local governance, paedophilia, stereotypes, and antibiotic resistance.
Although artist residencies have been around since the early 1900s, it is in this present era that they are gaining popularity, now more than ever. They provide artists with what is most crucial to their work and what the post-modern lifestyle fails to grant, the sublime. Founded on that belief and of providing artists with much needed - time and space, residencies also promise the reassurances of nature and communion.
PACA_Proyectos Artisticos Casa Antonino (Artistic Projects Antonino House), located in Trubia, a small rural town in Spain is one such ideal residency. Established as an artist-run space, managed by Virginia Lopez, in an old country farmhouse, PACA is a project focused on contemporary art, environmental practices and artistic education, with international residency programmes.
The objectives of PACA are: to promote environmental and ecological practices and sensibilities in contemporary art; to carry out activities related to training, profusion, distribution and education; and to create collaborative networks between local bodies, national and international institutions and universities. They do this through interdisciplinary projects, fostering a dialogue between artistic communities and other members of society.