“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”
(Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man)
The title of this exhibition recalls James Brown’s 1968 song, Say It Loud: I’m Black and I’m Proud, which affirmed black pride against white dominance. The song’s popularity stood as a defiant example of uncompromising blackness at a time when black identity was undergoing a transformation. Today this rallying cry has become ever more urgent as black lives continue to be threatened by systemic violence. The brutal killings of Trayvon Martin (2012), Michael Brown Jr. (2014), Eric Garner (2014), Tamir Rice (2014), Anthony Hill (2015) and Philando Castile (2016) are only a handful of many other black victims, confirming the discriminatory practices of the law and its enforcement agencies.
The exhibition, Say It Loud, examines the structures that promote social prejudice against black bodies. While police brutality and incarceration rates remain on the rise against black people, fear, distrust and outrage have become commonplace in black neighborhoods. What will it take to change this system, and how can these attacks on people of color, particularly young black men, be stopped? It requires serious work and commitment to address the inequality and racial discrimination that has alienated black people for centuries.
Artists in the exhibition seek new ways of discussing race by confronting the country’s racial history. Myra Greene’s close-up photographs of facial features pose questions about the legacy of suffering experienced by black people. Michael Paul Britto’s collages contend with exposing the evident racism often denied in our society, while Joshua Rashaad McFadden’s images examine how black men in America see themselves and others. He juxtaposes family album pictures and hand written notes together with portraits of the sitter. Mario Pfeifer from Germany expands on this theme by evoking the subject of gun violence, which has been defended as American culture. Furthermore, Roberto Visani’s iron cast sculptures of guns from police archives point to the tragedy and fear these weapons continue to bear. As black bodies continue to be victims of police brutality and discrimination, it has become necessary to invoke that defiant spirit of the Civil Rights Movement to challenge these prejudices against black communities.
Curated by Tumelo Mosaka