(The Dallas Examiner) – The Afro-Atlantic Histories, an intense, thought-provoking collection that visually explores the transatlantic slave trade, is the latest exhibition to open at the Dallas Museum of Art. Making its final stop in Dallas, the museum referred to the touring showcase as an “unprecedented” display of the past.
Through about 100 artworks, the exhibit opens up the history and remaining legacy of the Black Diaspora woven within the centuries-long international business and culture of slavery.
“We are honored to welcome this groundbreaking exhibition to Dallas, and we invite our community to experience an invigorating celebration and reimagination of the African Diaspora,” said Dr. Agustín Arteaga, the DMA’s Eugene McDermott Director, in a prepared statement.
“Ambitious in its scope and scholarship, Afro-Atlantic Histories offers a wide range of new perspectives and a deeper understanding of the connections between the cultures of the Black Atlantic.”
Made up of various styles and mediums of art – paintings, sculptures, textiles, photography, collage and audiovisual installations – the first work the exhibition visitors will encounter is the large painted canvas panel Into Bondage by Aaron Douglas, a leader in the Harlem Renaissance.
The painting is a visual recollection of Africans being torn from their land, shipped to America, bound, brutalized and sold into slavery.
Douglas was previously the creator of four murals for the Hall of Negro Life in Fair Park for the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition.
Into Bondage is a rare piece for locals to behold: The Hall of Negro Life was demolished soon after the exposition and two of the murals were forever lost. This painting is one of his surviving murals, a cultural survivor from our city exhibited courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Corcoran Collection.
The exhibition was organized and presented in 2018 by the Museu de Arte de São Paulo. In addition to the art, the exhibition includes documents produced in Africa, North, South and Central America, the Caribbean, and Europe from the 17th century to the present day. Works from the DMA’s own collection are on display as well.
“Afro-Atlantic Histories is a rich and revelatory exploration of visual culture that offers a deeply international vision of Black aesthetic traditions,” said Ade Omotosho, the Nancy and Tim Hanley assistant curator of contemporary art.
“Rather than organize artworks chronologically, the exhibition unfolds thematically, which yields compelling juxtapositions that reveal the ways the past lingers in the present.”
Juxtaposing historical artworks with contemporary works by artists of the Black Diaspora – a collective cultural “Blackness” that Black and African people around the world feel or experience – the DMA notes that exhibition fosters dialogues across time and reexamines histories of enslavement, resistance and the struggle for liberation from a global perspective.
This results in an interactive aspect to the exhibition.
In one place, there is a seating area that encourages museum guests to converse about what they are seeing and their feelings and thoughts on that. Nearby, pencils and blank note cards are available so that visitors can put down the thoughts that the exhibition generates within them. Those cards are then placed on a wall and become a part of the exhibition.
Visitors do not just see, but experience, Afro-Atlantic Histories, and choose to leave something of themselves behind. Their personal documentation becomes a part of the larger examination of such a global culture.
In connection with the exhibition, the DMA will host Revelation & Celebration: Black History and Culture, a free community weekend event to be held Saturday and Sunday.
Attractions and highlights of the event include free admission to Afro-Atlantic Histories, the film Rising: The Hall of Negro Life, sketching in the galleries, poetry, storytelling and spoken word performances, live music, yoga, an African drum circle, gallery tours and food trucks.
The exhibit will be ongoing in the DMA’s Barrel Vault Tuesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Feb. 11, 2014. Children 11 and younger are free but still need a ticket for entrance to the exhibition. Underground museum parking is available. For more information, visit https://www.dma.org.