(K. Brent Tomer),
THE label “African-American” wasn’t in Ghada Amer’s vocabulary when the artist arrived in the United States in 1995. Born in Egypt, she spent her formative years in France, where “we never learned it in school.” Living in Harlem—a predominantly black neighbourhood, and once a hub for those relocating from the South—a racial confrontation caused by Ms Amer’s olive skin caused the artist to declare: “I am the real African-American!”
The exchange illustrates the complexities of the term and the myriad ways in which people identify with it. “Africans in America”, a two-part exhibition at the Goodman Gallery Johannesburg and the Johannesburg Art Gallery, unpicks its geographical, historical, cultural, political and economic associations further. Liza Essers and Hank Willis Thomas, the curators, have been wise in shunning a didactic approach, arranging the show instead around the biographies of the artists, each of whom has a “very deep personal connection to Africa and America”.
The dozen artists featured have all tread a different path. Brendan Fernandes was born in Kenya, moved to Canada with his family…Continue reading