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Senior Project submitted to The Division of Arts of Bard College.
This project investigates into the development of a black artistic identity in the 20th century. Beginning with the exoticizing of the African aesthetic in the works of Picasso and the modernists in the early 1900s, that claimed the black body for themselves. It is then reclaimed by the performance style of Josephine Baker, who defied social normativity in becoming a major figure in the surge of Jazz in 1920s France. It then moves onto the work of Langston Hughes who brought the black literary voice into focus, not only in America, but on a global scale. His contribution is one of introducing the global narrative of individualism in a circumstance of oppression. Out of this we move to the political nature of Fela Kuti, a rebel and a nonconformist, whose music brought the world the image of a modern Africa that was going to approach modernism in its own way. The final piece of the puzzle lies with Afrika Bambaataa and the creation of the Zulu Nation as a spearhead for the coming of conscious rap in the late 1980s and '90s. In this we witness a movement that emphasized that before any sort of communal shift to take place, it first had to manifest on a personal level. These are examples of artists that belong to a canon of selfless artists, each contributing to the development and enlarging of the worlds perspective on what is a black artist.
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O'Shea, Tristan Jacob, "'How Do I Define Me': The Development of a Black Artistic Identity in the 20th Century" (2015). Senior Projects Spring 2015. 26.