Visual memory

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Black Africans and those who have descended from those origins in Diaspora communities have a complex relationship with visual representation. Several centuries worth of caricatures created by folks of other races and heritages have contributed to the current situation, where many of us are ambivalent about accepting our genetic inheritances.

In 1995, the Royal Academy presented a flagship exhibition entitled Africa: The Art of a Continent as part of the Africa 95 Festival. I remember attending that show and simply taking the images for granted, as an African who had seen communal festivities and other rites of passage in an African country.

Filing through my memories now, I realise that this exhibition had a huge amount of information that could have made a difference to the inner lives of folks of African descent, if anyone had taken the initiative in drawing attention to the value of all that work being assembled together in one space.

African artists and craftspeople have left a rich legacy of images that we can all draw inspiration from. Obviously, there are other stories to be told about the lives of our people in Diaspora communities, but the fact remains that we don’t need anyone else to tell us about the aesthetics of our natural looks.

Is it possible that we can address some of our current psychological issues, if we take more interest in the ways that our forbears saw themselves?

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