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Cynthia Hawkins

ceramist, sculptor, filmmaker, and cofounder (with her husband, James Hatch) of the Hatch‐Billops Collection, an archive of African American cultural history, was born in Los Angeles, California, to Lucius Billops, a cook and merchant seaman, and Alma Gilmore, a dressmaker, maid, and aircraft assembly worker. Billops graduated from Catholic Girls High School in 1952, and in 1954 she began her studies at the University of Southern California. She majored in occupational therapy, which included drawing, sculpture, and ceramics. She transferred to Los Angeles State College in 1956 after she became pregnant, and then she changed her major to special education. Billops worked during the day as a bank bookkeeper and maintained a full academic workload in the evening. At the end of 1956 her daughter, Christa, was born, and Billops put her up for adoption. This was an experience she would explore in her 1992 ...

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Caryn E. Neumann

a still photographer and documentary filmmaker, was born in Houston, Texas, the second child and only daughter of the schoolteacher Mollie Carroll Parrott and the dentist Frederick Douglas Parrott Sr. At least one grandparent had been born a slave. Both parents were the first in their respective families to obtain advanced college degrees, but racism kept the family poor. The Parrotts lived in the Third Ward, one of Houston's African American neighborhoods, and Blue attended a segregated grade school. As she wrote in her memoir, The Dawn at My Back, the challenges of growing up poor and black in a racist, classist society put a shadow over her life.

Blue did not intend to pursue a career in the visual arts. She enrolled as an English literature student, specializing in the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English Renaissance period, at Boston University in 1960 with the goal of becoming ...

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Catherine M. Grant and Margaret Rose Vendryes

American printmaker, film maker, installation and conceptual artist and writer.

Green, of African descent, has worked primarily with film-based media, and has published criticism and designed installations that reveal her commitment to ongoing feminist and black empowerment movements. She earned her BA from Wesleyan University in 1981 and also spent some time at the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1980, returning in the late 1980s to study in the Whitney Independent Study Program, graduating in 1990. At the age of 24 she began exhibiting her comparative compositions containing found objects, images, and texts that question recorded history.

Green’s work deals with issues of anthropology and travel. By undertaking projects via the methodology of the 19th-century explorer, she exposed the arbitrary and prejudiced nature of classification, as in Bequest (1991; see 1993 exh cat an installation she made at the ...

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Dylon L. Robbins

frequently referred to as Nicolasito, was born in Camagüey, Cuba, into a family of intellectuals, artists, and prominent community members. His father was an attorney and his mother a homemaker and interior designer. His uncle was the prolific and renowned poet Nicolás Guillén. Together with Sara Gómez and Sergio Giral, Guillén Landrián was one of the few Afro-Cuban filmmakers during the early years of the Revolution.

Guillén Landrián s interest in visual art began very early through the encouragement of his mother He also exhibited an early interest in documentary filmmaking attempting a short film as a teenager In Havana in his twenties Guillén Landrián initially studied to be a diplomat before starting to work as a production assistant at the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry ICAIC There he would study with the filmmakers Joris Ivens and Theodor Christensen who were working and teaching in Cuba along with ...

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Tim Haslett

visual artist, filmmaker, and cinematographer, was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, and grew up in Clarksdale, Mississippi, the son of Rowena and Arthur Fielder. He studied architecture and film at Howard University from 1978 to 1982. While there, he worked with the filmmaker Haile Gerima, who became a mentor and an influential friend. Jafa's concerns with the centrality of the Middle Passage and slavery in the African Diaspora led him to rethink the political and aesthetic importance of defining “blackness,” and how what Jafa called “primal sites” are crucial to any project concerned with the liberation of people of African descent.

Renowned for his cinematography on Julie Dash's path-breaking film Daughters of the Dust (1992 Jafa put into practice techniques he had long been theorizing Black Visual Intonation was a radical aesthetic notion about the mechanics of filmmaking Jafa won Sundance Film Festival ...

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Livia Apa

Angolan photographer, documentarist, and filmmaker, was born on 30 July 1976 in Benguela, Angola. When he was eight years old, his family moved to Portugal. Although Liberdade stayed in Portugal, he often visited Angola for professional reasons. He graduated with a degree in cultural marketing from the Universidade Lusófona of Lisbon, and also attended some courses for a master’s degree in African studies in the Instituto Superior de Ciências do Trabalho e da Empresa (ISCTE) in Lisbon. Liberdade attended a course of cine-video in the Instituto Superior de Artes Design, Marketing e Publicidade (IADE) of the Portuguese capital. At the age of twenty, he produced his first documentary, O Rap è Uma Arma 1996 which follows rappers living in the suburbs of Lisbon These suburban spaces usually known for their violence are presented in Liberdade s film as places of extreme cultural vitality He won the prize for best ...

Article

South African novelist, playwright, poet, painter, sculptor, film producer, and academic, was born on 6 October 1948 in Sterkspruit in the Herschel District of the Eastern Cape, near the border with Lesotho. His father Ashby Peter Solomzi Mda was a schoolteacher, later an attorney, and a founder of the African National Congress Youth League and of the Pan-African Congress; his mother Rose Nompumelelo Mda was a nurse. When Mda was an infant, his parents moved with him to Orlando East and then to Dobsonville in Soweto, where his father taught school.

Mda claims that he became a juvenile delinquent and joined street gangs during his time in Soweto while his father was studying law In hopes of keeping him out of trouble his parents sent him as a teenager to live with his grandparents in Sterkspruit soon after his father joined him to establish a law practice there His father ...

Article

Reinhold Misselbeck and Kimberly Juanita Brown

African American photographer, writer, film maker, and composer. Parks was the youngest of 15 children and, after the early death of his mother, he took on responsibilities for himself and his family as a teenager. Parks worked in a number of professions before becoming a self-taught freelance photographer in 1937. After getting his start in fashion photography, he worked as one of the Farm Security Administration’s photographic team (1942–3) and held a similar post with the Office of War Information (1943–5). During this time he produced now iconic pictures such as American Gothic (1942), which features a black cleaner in front of the American flag staring into the camera with mop and broom upturned, as if in salute. Parks was soon hired as a photographer for Life magazine, where he worked from 1948 to 1961 During this period ...

Article

Elizabeth Schul

Gordon Parks's first two publications-Flash Photography (1947) and Camera Portraits: The Techniques and Principles of Documentary Portraiture (1948)-while written primarily for the professional photographer, reveal an aesthetic and a social commitment that structures the astonishing diversity of his subsequent work. Embodying his conviction that the photographer must combine technical intelligence, especially in the use of light, with a sensitive response to people, both works are photographic portfolios representing a cross-section of American lives—rural and urban, wealthy and leisured, poor and laboring.

Frequently identified as a Renaissance man, given the range of his accomplishments and the variety of media he has used, Parks was also the first African American to work for Life, Vogue the Office of War Information and the Farm Security Administration and one of the first African Americans to write direct produce and score a film While the commercial success of his ...

Article

Ann Wilde

photographer, poet, writer, composer, and filmmaker. Born the fifteenth and final child of a farming family in Fort Scott, Kansas, Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks was born on 30 November 1912 Parks attended a segregated school where he was often stoned beaten and called derogatory names Three of his close friends had been killed because of racial violence and he was distinctly aware of the constant threat that faced him simply because he was African American and lived in the United States Parks s mother died when he was sixteen after which complying with his mother s wishes Parks moved to Minneapolis to live with his sister and brother in law Unwelcome in his brother in law s home Parks spent the winter homeless but managed to finish high school by working odd jobs He believed above all that the difficulty of his experiences ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

Gordon Parks was born in Fort Scott, Kansas, the son of a dirt farmer and the youngest of fifteen children. He left home when he was fifteen, shortly after his mother's death. After an unhappy attempt to move in with a married sister in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Parks ended up spending a frigid winter homeless, an experience that sensitized him to the plight of the poor and that he would draw on in later photography and films. At the time, his hunger and loneliness nearly led him to a life of crime; however, he managed to struggle through high school for a while, working odd jobs herding cattle, carrying bricks, and even touring with a semiprofessional basketball team.

Working as a waiter on the Northern Pacific Railroad, Parks saw magazine photos produced by the Farm Security Administration, a federally funded project that chronicled the Great Depression in rural and ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

photographer, filmmaker, author, and composer, was born Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks in the small prairie town of Fort Scott, Kansas, to Andrew Jackson Parks, a dirt farmer, and Sarah Ross, a maid. Gordon was the youngest of fifteen children, the first five of which, he later discovered, were really half siblings, born to his father and a woman other than his mother. Parks's poor Kansas childhood, and his memories of its unbridled racism, feature prominently in his later work, especially his books “thick with those memories.” The first phase of Parks's life ended with the death of his mother in 1928. “Before the flowers on my mother s grave had wilted Parks remembered my father had me on a train to my sister in Minnesota I ran into some hell there Russell 145 Within a month of his arrival in Minneapolis ...

Article

C. M. Winston

artist, curator, art historian, filmmaker, writer, and activist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the only child of Howard Pindell and Mildred, both educators. By the age of eight Pindell already aspired to be an artist, and she attended Saturday drawing classes at the Fleischer Art Memorial.

Pindell graduated cum laude with a BFA from Boston University and earned an MFA from Yale University's School of Art and Architecture in 1967. She moved to New York City in 1967 after graduating from Yale and she worked primarily as a painter of nonobjective and figurative works during the early years of her career That year she landed a job at the Museum of Modern Art MoMA as an exhibition assistant in the department of national and international circulating exhibitions At MoMA she rose through the ranks from curatorial assistant to associate curator in ...

Article

Edward M. Epstein

artist, was born in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York. She became a key practitioner of contemporary conceptual photography. Her enigmatic text-image combinations share common threads with the work of conceptualists such as John Baldessari and postmodernists such as Barbara Kruger, yet they add a racial dimension, inviting the viewer to probe the stereotypes embedded in images of black women.

Simpson's early career followed the track of traditional black-and-white photography. While earning a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1982, she photographed subjects from her neighborhood. She studied a more conceptual approach to visual art as a graduate student at the University of California at San Diego, where she earned an MFA in 1985 In that same year she was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Management Grant On returning to New York she was given a warm ...

Article

Anne K. Swartz

African American photographer and multimedia artist. Simpson attended the High School of Art and Design then received her BFA in Photography from the School of Visual Arts, New York City in 1982 and her MFA in Visual Arts from University of California, San Diego in 1985. She focused on photography for both degrees. While still in graduate school she started complicating the presumed transparency of photography, experimenting with the clarity of the narrative, the deconstruction of narrative as associated with photography and an investigation of the transparency of photography. She would incorporate images of a figure turned away from the viewer alongside text that commented on the experience of women of colour in the patriarchy, as evidenced in The Waterbearer (1996 New York Sean and Mary Kelly col A lone female figure pours water from two containers and the text at the bottom proclaims She Saw ...

Article

costume and fashion designer, was born Zelda Barbour in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. She was the eldest of seven children of Blanche Christian Barbour, a homemaker, and James Barbour, a cook on the Pennsylvania Railroad. Zelda received a Catholic school education that included training in music. As was typical for girls growing up in the early twentieth century, she learned to sew as a child by making doll clothes. She refined her technique observing her grandmother's skilled dressmaking and recalled in a 1994 interview (Gonzalez, 1994) that at a young age she made a dress for her grandmother that so pleased the older woman that she was buried in it.

During her long career Zelda Valdes was known by various names including Zelda Valdes Zelda Wynn Valdes and Zelda Wynn Her career in fashion began when she moved to White Plains New York as a teenager where she worked in ...

Article

Amalia K. Amaki

photographer and film producer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, to William Howard Wallace, a chef and musician, and Margaret Shannon Wallace, a real estate broker. William was the younger of the couple's two children; his older sister, Jacquelyn, was born 9 August 1936. William attended Chicago's public schools, graduating from Betsy Ross Elementary in 1951 and Central YMCA High in 1955.

Wallace's uncle gave him a camera on his tenth birthday, triggering his fascination with photographic images. With money he earned from his paper route, Wallace bought his first developing kit the following year. Three years later his family moved to a new apartment, and their landlord, Anthony Haywood was an accomplished freelance photographer with his own darkroom Noticing Wallace s interest in the medium Haywood took him under his tutelage Guided by Haywood Wallace developed the fundamental technical skills that prepared him for ...

Article

Zapiro  

Sean Jacobs

South African political cartoonist, satirist, and animator, was born Jonathan Shapiro in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1958. His father, Gershon Shapiro, was a lawyer, and his mother, Gaby, a prominent antiapartheid political activist. Gershon Shapiro was a descendant of Lithuanian Jews who had immigrated to South Africa at the end of the nineteenth century, fleeing Russian anti-Semitism. Gaby Shapiro was born in 1930 in Berlin, Germany. Her family fled to London in 1937 to escape the Nazi Holocaust of Jews on continental Europe. Zapiro’s parents met and married while they were students at the London School of Economics in 1956 before moving to South Africa Zapiro is one of four children he has one brother and two sisters Zapiro grew up in Rondebosch a suburb of Cape Town where he also completed his elementary and high school education A high school classmate gave him the nickname Zapiro He ...