This talk is a meditation on the sea, the horizon line, and infinite Black life. Reading the sea through the dikenga, the BaKongo cosmogram, I posit that it cannot be bound by linear time, allowing us to examine the cyclical, unending implications of the Transatlantic slave trade. Engaging with Kamau Brathwaite's conceptions of Black women as the submerged mother, the circular culture of the descendants of enslaved people, and tidalectics, I address the sea as a space of liberation from Western conceptions of time and space. The talk sets a group of early nineteenth-century sketches and watercolors by British artist William Berryman on his Transatlantic crossing from Jamaica to London against interpretations of the sea by contemporary artists Nadia Huggins, Manuel Piña Baldoquin, and Kehinde Wiley. I attend to ways in which, for those born of the diaspora, the sea upends our landlocked understanding of time and space, becoming more stable than the ever-shifting, colonially-imposed geographic boundaries on land. For those born of the diaspora, the sea becomes our native land, the one site from which our ancestral histories sprung.
Speaker Bio Rachel Grace Newman is an art historian from Toronto, Canada, with family roots in Jamaica. She specializes in art history of the colonial Caribbean and contemporary art practices of the Caribbean and African diasporas. Her research in colonial history has informed her curatorial and artistic practice. In the spring of 2016, she curated Blood in the Sugar Bowl at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, which used 18th-century sugar bowls as an entry point to examine the colonial sugar trade. Her art collective, In Rapture, is a collaboration with her brother, Alex, who completed his BA in photography at the San Francisco Art Institute. Using large-scale styled portraits and narrative photography, their work examines ancestral connections to geographic sites in a world impacted by the forced and voluntary migrations that took place under colonial rule. After receiving her PhD from Stanford University in 2016, she went on to accept the Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study of the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University. At the moment, she is finishing her first book, Land That Knows My Blood, an examination of Jamaica at the turn of the nineteenth-century, the art of William Berryman, the beauty and pain of belonging and diaspora, and ancestral power.
Presented by African American & African Diaspora Studies Department (AAADS) Columbia University and the Department of Art History and Archaeology - Columbia University
Fall Semester Events co-sponsors: Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia University (IRAAS); Center for the Study of Ethnicity & Race-Columbia University (CSER); Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation- Columbia University (GSAPP); Institute for Comparative Literature & Society-Columbia University (ICLS); Institute for the Study of Sexuality & Gender-Columbia University (ISSG); The School of the Arts-Columbia University (SOA)
Photo Credit: Circa No Future by Nadia Huggins, 2015, digital photograph.