As cliché as it sounds, art acts as a mirror to society. Black people have been traditionally objectified and exoticised by white artists, and overwhelmingly positioned as “the Other”. Even though Picasso and his peers were part of the “Modernist” movement, a lot of their works failed to reflect the increasing diversity of modern society and contradicted modern values initiated by The Enlightenment, which saw all of mankind as rational, fair and equal.
Hopefully, the recent Black Lives Matters protests will shine a light on the areas in art and culture where black people are still poorly represented and appreciated. A lot of incredible black artists have shared their work online, and they should be as prominent in our feeds as any white creative. Supporting the black creative community is vital, right now and always.
Here’s just a few great black artists you should follow on Instagram:
Gyasi’s bold photographic collages are vibrant, eye-catching and feature solely black subjects. For him, “colour can serve as a therapy, it can treat depression and transform emotions.”
At only 23 years old, Gyasi was inspired by photography and art from a young age. While his mother shopped at Makola Market in Accra, Ghana, Gyasi was dropped off at a small photography studio. Gyasi continues to break the mould, taking photos using just his iPhone camera. The majority of his stunning creations on Insta are taken in his hometown, Accra.
Nigerian American artist Dawn Okoro creates elegant figurative paintings, photography and videos inspired by pop culture and fashion.
Okoro shares the genesis of her inspiration: the representation of beauty in magazines. “Growing up in a small town in Texas, fashion magazines were one of my windows to the world,” Okoro explains. “But since I didn’t see many people that looked like me represented in the pages, I started to paint what I wanted to see.”
Okoro’s work has been featured in Forbes, Drawing Magazine and The Austin Chronicle.
Nigerian-born, contemporary artist Nengi Omuku moved to the UK to study art and currently lives and works in Nigeria. Her beautiful, abstract figures are at the forefront of her works, positioned against a contrasting backdrop. They are inspired by the politics of the body and the complexities that surround identity and difference. Her figures encourage us to look beneath the surface using metaphors and themes that explore race, identity, mental journeying and mutual belonging.
LA-based Alex Gardner’s surrealist-esque paintings are inspired by everyday conversations, commutes and routines, but cast a distinctively dreamlike atmosphere.
Gardner uses skin tone to challenge the ways in which viewers identify with what they see. “I don’t know if I’m trying to paint black people, but I guess that’s what I’m doing! I’m certainly trying not to paint white people, but I feel like [the bodies] are so black that they can be perceived as not just of African descent,” he tells AnOther magazine.
Kudzanai-Violet Hwami was born in Gutu, Zimbabwe and moved to the UK to study Art at Wimbledon College of Arts and later Oxford University. Her oil paintings portray her personal experience growing up in South Africa. Many of her works include self-portraits and images of her immediate and extended family. The artist’s vivid work raises issues surrounding diaspora, displacement and identity.