More than 200 works are given cultural and religious contexts, as well as aesthetic appreciation.
FORT WORTH — The vast expansion of France’s colonial empire in 19th-century Africa increasingly exposed Europeans to cultures and creations of very different worlds. Artifacts, even people, from French colonies attracted considerable curiosity — and, yes, imperial condescension — at a succession of Paris Expositions.
African masks caught the attention of Picasso, who made them a pivotal influence on modern European art. With the African masked figures in the 1907 painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, in a jumble of faceted bodies and drapery, Cubism was born. The stylized simplification of African images would also influence other artists, including Brancusi, Modigliani, Giacometti and the German expressionists.
It’s through the lenses of those early 20th-century European artworks that we continue to see traditional African art and artifacts. We still marvel at the stylized geometries of the human figures and imaginative detail work here and there. But a major exhibition at the Kimbell Art Museum, “The Language and Beauty of African Art,” encourages us to consider the works’ cultural and religious inspirations and significance.
Organized by the Art Institute of Chicago, although first displayed here, the show includes more than 200 items from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, from West, Central and Southern African cultures.
With facial features so different from Europeans, Africans celebrated very different notions of human beauty. Although the best artisans were clearly very skilled, they tended to render faces not naturalistically but in somewhat abstracted and idealized forms. Some figures incorporate the geometrical scarification prized in some cultures. Some sculptural images are quite abstracted, notably reliquary figures of the Kota people.
Statues both small and great also signal power, vitality and significance, notably with elongated torsos. Outsize heads signify intelligence. Macho power threatens with bulging eyes and protruding teeth.
Although the societies were overwhelmingly patriarchal, women were valued as life-givers and advisers, sometimes even crowning kings. A veranda post by the master carver Olowe of Ise portrays a queen towering over the petite king.
Ceremonial masks and headdresses, to ward off evil spirits or invite benevolent forces, can be elaborate, incorporating metals, animal horns, beads and grasses. Some are quite abstracted, notably a headdress from the Bamana culture of Mali. Curves and zigzags exquisitely carved in wood suggest the area’s small antelopes, but just barely.
Delicately carved and elaborately beaded domestic items range from pipes and cups to a fanciful stool sandwiched around an imaginary leopard’s body. Often more ceremonial than practical, such artifacts signal prosperity — a bit of conspicuous consumption, if you will.
The exhibition’s most startling creations are carved male and female power figures covered all over with nails and blades. These represent connections between the living and the dead, their intercessory and protective power enhanced by herbal concoctions placed in head and body cavities. The most extravagant examples, owned by kings or chiefs, were employed in dramatic public performances.
More than a century after first taken seriously by European artists, African artifacts have lost none of their ability to amaze. The Kimbell exhibition refreshes them with new perspectives and contexts, elaborated in a hefty 356-page catalog.
Details“The Language of Beauty in African Art” runs through July 31 at the Kimbell Art Museum, 3333 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth. Tuesday through Thursday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday noon to 8 p.m.; Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Museum admission is free. Special exhibition $18; discounts for students, educators, seniors, military personnel; free for children under 6. Half-price admission on Tuesdays and after 5 p.m. on Fridays. 817-332-8451, kimbellart.org.
SOURCE- Dallas Morning News
"You are the source of my strength. You are the strength of my life." These lyrics created a robust refrain around the majestic Meyerson Symphony Center Wednesday night. The 200-voice Project Unity choir began the reverent stanza as they'd done in previous songs throughout the night. Soon the 1000-plus patrons of all faiths, races, and orientations joined in the anthem to create an angelic choir reminiscent of the heavenly host. It was at that moment Project Unity's mission that night was accomplished: Together We Sing.
St. Luke United Methodist Church Pastor, Richie Butler, created a cadre of religious leaders, city officials, and community members of all races to focus on what unites us as a people instead of what divides us. This birthed the "Together We…" movement under the umbrella of Project Unity. Project Unity has been leading efforts to unify Dallas by implementing a themed "Together We" program that addresses the country's efforts to build and sustain community, provide a forum for safe conversations on race relations and improve relations with law enforcement. The organization's annual "Together We Sing" concert is the organization's pinnacle event. This event was created to bring together a diverse selection of vocalists, musicians, and other musical groups to showcase the diversity brought to the world of music.
This mission was accomplished with Wednesday night's tribute to gospel music icon Richard Smallwood backed by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Glenn Caldwell. Dallas' most notable singers joined the celebration under the masterful choral direction of Clark Joseph and orchestrations of Roy J Cotton II. Reuben Lael's soul-stirring rendition of "Balm in Gilead" opened the concert and was a resounding crowd favorite. Dr. Myron William's familiar yet masterful "Center of My Joy" highlighted Smallwood's legacy while displaying Williams' range and vocally agility.
WFAA senior reporter Demond Fernandez and psychiatrist Dr. Tina Ali Mohammad united vocally on Ethan Kent's "We Are One." Kent's lyrics, "We all breathe air in our lungs, we all bleed red blood," highlighted the through line of the night…." Together We." The gritty and throaty "Trust Me" executed by former Kirk Frankiln and the Family lead singer Pastor Darrell Blair transported the anticipatory audience directly to the church's doors.
Picking up the torch from Pastor Blair was Grammy award winner Tamela Mann. Often known for her work with Tyler Perry, Mann set the concert hall ablaze with her powerful interpretation of Smallwood's classic "I Love the Lord." While the late Whitney Houston made the song famous in the movie "The Preachers Wife," actress and singer Mann put her masterful stamp on the gorgeous ballad. Mann's delivery left the participatory crowd on their feet and shouting for joy.
Although the lack of non-black singers was widely apparent, Project Unity still succeeded in continuing to carry the torch to unify the city of Dallas. Dallas needs more organizations like this one to put action to the complaints often heard. Bravo.
SOURCE- Urban Arts Magazine
The film “The Color Purple,” based on Alice Walker’s 1982 novel, has been an mainstay in my life since an early age. Not only did it star young, burgeoning actors Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover and Margaret Avery but it defined the first 21 years of my life. The ending redemption scene between Shug Avery and her father still drops a lump in my throat. My college days at Atlanta’s historic Morehouse College was riddled with random quotes from the classic movie. To be black, a child of the 80s and not have seen “The Color Purple” was a cardinal sin in my eyes.
When it was announced that the title was headed to Broadway, there was a collective heart racing that felt it was finally time that this story was shared with the theater masses. And share they did! The original 2005 Broadway production held closer to the story line of the book than Steven Spielberg’s cinematic retelling. From the lush overture to the beautiful set, gorgeous costumes and show stopping vocals, this theatrical production created a mark on the theater cannon that was undeniable. The star power that permeated the Broadway Theater stage was like a who’s who of black entertainment: LaChanze, Lou Meyer, Fantasia, Chaka Khan, Bebe Winans and Todrick Hall.
10 years and 3 national tours later, “The Color Purple” was revived on Broadway. This production, a transfer from the first international staging in London, was not the production we’d experienced a decade prior. Director John Doyle stripped away the spectacle - set, costumes, shiny things - and focused directly on the story. This forced us to sit with the pain, fortitude and resilience displayed from each of Walker’s myriad of characters. Simple nuances as yards of Kente cloth creating the African sky and then becoming a statuesque robe or a letter in an extended hand serving as a mailbox, painted a modest yet effective backdrop, winning Cynthia Erivo a Tony Award for her portrayal of Celie.
Mezzo-soprano Raehann Bryce-Davis grew up in the small North Texas town of Keene.
It can be nerve-wracking for singers to debut at the Metropolitan Opera, the largest performing arts organization in America and one of the most prestigious opera companies in the world. It’s even more challenging if they have less than a week to learn the part.
Such is the case with mezzo-soprano Raehann Bryce-Davis, who grew up in the small North Texas town of Keene. She got a call only six days before the start of rehearsals for the Met’s upcoming production of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, asking if she could fill in as Baba the Turk. Because of her experience in contemporary music, Bryce-Davis had the skills to quickly learn the role. “That very short time period makes everything so much more focused,” she says.
Produced only once at the Dallas Opera, in 1983, The Rake’s Progress traces the descent of man-about-town Tom Rakewell. After leaving his fiancée, he marries Baba the Turk, a bearded circus performer. Baba provides comic relief, throwing a tantrum in her first aria, later revealing the poignant side of her character.
“She finds she’s been abandoned and betrayed by her new husband,” Bryce-Davis says. “And she picks herself up, gathers her dignity and decides to go back to the stage, back to her career. It’s actually a really powerful moment, and quite touching.”
In Keene, Bryce-Davis sang in choir at church and school, and played the clarinet, piano and violin. Her mom, a trained singer, studied music education at the University of Texas at Arlington and dragged her daughter to performances around the area.