How to understand Black art across the diaspora



Les Fiances

Wifredo Lam

The Négritude Movement

1930s - 1960s

Négritude was an anti-colonial cultural and political movement that sought to assert pride in African cultural values as a response to European colonial thinking. “Négritude" was coined by Francophone Caribbean poet Aime Césaire in 1930s Paris. Césaire founded and led the movement alongside French Guianese poet Léon Damas and the future Senegalese President Léopold Sédar Senghor.  The movement sought to reclaim the value of Blackness and African culture.

Négritude served as not only a theoretic framework but also an aesthetic concept. The artists of the movement leaned heavily on Surrealism which made way for the creation of Afro-Surrealism, a concept that influenced many of the visual artists associated with Negritude like Afro-Cuban artist Wifredo Lam.

The Négritude Movement also birthed the 1966 World Festival of Negro Arts. This festival provided an unprecedented opportunity for black artists, musicians, writers, poets, and performers to participate in a global examination of African culture. This event allowed the space for tribal art in Africa to be perceived globally as art and led to the beginning of the international art movement.

Black Girl

   (1966 film)  
Ousmane Sembène

Third Cinema

1960/1970s - present

Third Cinema is a political project and aesthetic that has guided filmmakers in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. It is an anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, and anti-Hollywood protest using film as its medium. Originating in South America, Third Cinema quickly became popular with African filmmakers who additionally found strong affinities with the struggle for cultural, political, and social liberation.

Ethiopian scholar Teshome Gabriel was considered an expert on film and cinema from Africa and the developing world. He was additionally considered "one of the first scholars to theorize in a critical fashion about Third World cinema”, with some of his notable books including  “Third Cinema in the Third World: The Aesthetic of Liberation.” Gabriel outlined a three-phase path along which films have developed in Africa, Asia, and South America:

1. Assimilationist films such as those of Bollywood
2. Films with local control of production, that discuss local history and culture but romanticize the past
3. Films where production is not in the hands of local elites, but the hands of people where film is an ideological tool for socio-political and cultural transformation.

Third Cinema films question structures of power, particularly that of colonialism and colonial legacies. Their political and social critiques aim to challenge their viewers and increase social consciousness about issues of nationhood, power, identity, and global oppression. By presenting lived experiences and not imagined experiences, Third Cinema reveals the hidden struggles of women, indigenouse groups, impoverished communities, and minorities to demonstrate the present legacies of colonial pasts. Third Cinema encourages the reimagination of being and urges its audience to conceive new possibilities and models.