Talk / Lecture

(Re)Visioning Her-Story: The Black Female Body in the Black Female Imagination

National Museum of African Art, Washington, DC, United States
25 Oct 2017

Ayana v. Jackson Sally, 2016 archival pigment print / edition of 8 + 3ap 130 X 76 cm / 51.2 X 29.9 in
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How do contemporary black women artists deal with the past without dwelling in it? How do they respond to problematic stereotypes without reinforcing them? How do they negotiate whiteness without compromising blackness? Must they choose? Must they all be feminists? Apologists? Activists? What stories are they telling, what strategies are they using, and why?

Whether undressed or dressed, black women artists are producing provocative images of the black female body that reveal much about how they imagine themselves and how they perceive themselves imagined. What do these images reveal about materiality, gender, identity, race and representation in societies with legacies of racial oppression? What do they suggest about the boundary conditions of the black female imagination?

On October 25, at the National Museum of African Art, Mary Sibande and Ayana V. Jackson will explore these questions and more as they join with Panashe Chigumadzi and Lanisa Kitchiner to discuss the politics, processes and practices that they engage as contemporary black women artists in these times of increased racial tensions in South Africa and the United States. The artists will discuss how they negotiate between the intention and the impact of their creative works; how they navigate the exclusive art world; and how they use black female bodies – particularly their own – to create alternative visions of black womanhood

October 25, 2017
6:30–9 p.m.
Adult audiences only
Free and open to the public


Mary Sibande is a visual artist from South Africa. Her work investigates personal and political histories in order to upend power dynamics and reveal the true power of often-overlooked women. Her life-size sculptures transform women in traditional domestic worker’s uniforms into super “she-roes,” conquerors, and belles of the ball. She is one of the recipients of the museum’s 2017 African Art Award.

Ayana V. Jackson is a photographer based between France, South Africa, and the United States. Using reportage, performance, and studio-based portraiture, Jackson examines the complexities of photographic representation, the role of the camera in constructing identity, and the relationship between photographer, subject, and viewer.

Panashe Chigumadzi is a South African and Zimbabwean writer. She won the 2016 K. Sello Duiker Literary Award for her novel Sweet Medicine, and her short story “Small Deaths” was nominated for the 2016 Pushcart Literary Prize. Chigumadzi is the founding editor of Vanguard Magazine, a platform for black women in post-apartheid South Africa.

Lanisa Kitchiner, Ph.D., is an American arts administrator, academic, and director of education and scholarly initiatives at the National Museum of African Art. Her research focuses on the representation of black women in African literature, film, and visual art.

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www.africa.si.edu