The Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) presents Afro-Atlantic Histories—an unprecedented exhibition that visually explores the history and legacy of the Black Diaspora, with a focus on the transatlantic slave trade—on the final stop of its U.S. tour. Initially organized and presented in 2018 by the Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP), the exhibition comprises around 100 artworks and documents produced in Africa, the Americas, the Caribbean, and Europe from the 17th century to the present day, including works from the DMA’s own collection. The presenting sponsor for this exhibition in Dallas is Bank of America.
Juxtaposing historical artworks with contemporary works by artists of the Black Diaspora, including Kara Walker, Hank Willis Thomas, Titus Kaphar, Firelei Báez, Zanele Muholi, and Nina Chanel Abney, the exhibition fosters dialogues across time and reexamines histories of enslavement, resistance, and the struggle for liberation from a global perspective. Afro-Atlantic Histories is on view at the DMA from October 22, 2023, through February 11, 2024.
Afro-Atlantic Histories is divided into six thematic sections that accommodate the variety of work on display. With works spanning different eras, geographies, genres, and media, the sections together offer an expansive retelling of the many histories of the Afro-Atlantic.
- Maps and Margins focuses on the beginnings of the slave trade and the passage between Africa and the Americas, and how artists have represented and reinterpreted the histories within. Invoking and responding to imagery of slave ships and the continents they traveled between, this section traces the forced migration that resulted in an interconnected Atlantic world.
- Resistances and Activisms responds to the powerful pursuit of self-determination, beginning with Haitians’ declaration of independence in 1804. Works in this section reflect visual protest strategies in demonstrations, banners, textiles, and performance that have circulated throughout the Black Atlantic and have played a central role in the continuing struggle for full and dignified freedom.
- Enslavements and Emancipations considers the violence and terror of slavery in the context of the struggle for emancipation, centering resistance within the histories of enslavement. Contemporary works in this section confront brutality by incorporating historic images of slavery, evoking the horrors and trauma from these histories that persist today.
- Portraits presents an array of portraits of Black people from the 17th century through the present, including some of the most celebrated Afro-Atlantic portraits in the history of art, as well as those that are not traditionally memorialized in historical American and European portrait galleries.
- Rites and Rhythms highlights the spiritual and musical practices that have been central to the cultures of the Black Atlantic, with depictions of various types of music and dance, from merengue in the Dominican Republic to jazz in the United States, as well as the many interconnected forms of festivals, ceremonies, and religious rituals across the Americas and the Caribbean.
- Everyday Lives includes images of daily life in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Americas that reflect moments of labor and leisure in Black communities. Thematically organized paintings propose a dialogue among pictures of Black people in the context of farms, markets, street scenes, and interiors, with works made by Europeans and Euro-Americans, which often romanticized Black subservience, alongside later imagery by Afro-descendant artists that detail the daily activities of Black life in more humanistic ways, in addition to the realities of racial inequities and state violence.