quinta-feira, junho 11, 2009

A question of race

A question of race
Marcelo Ballvé
Thursday, June 11th 2009, 2:45 PM

Are Latinos in denial about deep-rooted racism in their communities? That’s one of the hard-hitting questions raised by “Négritude,” an exhibit focused on the work of this hemisphere’s black artists.
Puerto Ricans, for example, overwhelmingly report to the U.S. Census that they’re white (81% said so in 2000), says Papo Colo, a well-known artist from the island and one of the show’s curators.
He laughs at the absurdity of this statistic for an island with a history of slavery and race-mixing. Puerto Ricans, he adds, use words like “negro” and “negrita” affectionately, but tend to ignore black Latino identity — or consider it a cultural backwater.
“The Latino community is racist, and that’s a matter of fact for me,” says Colo, 46, who moved to New York from Puerto Rico in 1972. “It’s the Spanish racism, which is very hypocritical.”
An installation by Colo is the focal point of “Négritude,” showing at Exit Art, 475 10th Ave., through July 25. But the exhibition also features musical performances and the work of artists and filmmakers from Brazil, the French-speaking Caribbean and the United States.
In part to reaffirm black Latino identity, Colo, the gallery’s artistic director, created “Négritude Island,” a sprawling, star-shaped structure filled with dark soil and planted with sugarcane and cotton.
With its size, and the odor of plants and earth, the installation’s an almost overwhelming evocation of the slave-plantation atmosphere, placed smack in the middle of Exit Art’s spacious, white-walled gallery.
At the May 20 opening, children played along the edges of “Négritude Island” and were invited to fold images of black icons such as Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and Barack Obama into boats and airplanes, then toss these among the stalks and bushes.
“It’s about education,” says Colo.
The organizers want to reenergize Négritude, a concept coined by French-Caribbean poet Aimé Césaire during the 1930s international artistic movement to affirm blackness.
Even as Négritude developed in the French-speaking Caribbean, poets Nicolás Guillén of Cuba and Luis Palés Matos of Puerto Rico were pioneering “poesía negra,” which also inspired art and music.
Palés Matos offended the European-centered Puerto Rican elite of his day with poetry reflecting Afro-Caribbean sensibilities and titles such as “Ñam-ñam,” “Candombe,” “Bombo” and “Plena del Menéalo.” His 1920s poem “Pueblo Negro” predates Césaire’s more famous book-length poem “Return to My Native Land” by 13 or 14 years.
However, since black poets like Langston Hughes and others tied to the Harlem Renaissance had links to France, it was Césaire’s work that became better-known in the U.S.
“If Palés Matos had gotten to the U.S. at the same time, they wouldn’t have heard him,” says Colo, “but stuff in French — it was like, ‘Yeah, wow!’”

FONTE (foto incluída): New York Daily News - New York,NY,USA
LEGENDA DA FOTO: Sunshine for News
Papo Colo stands within his star-shaped installation, "Négritude Island," at the Exit Art gallery.

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