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Huon Wardle

was born in Kingston, the capital of Jamaica, on 14 May 1911. He was one of a small number of artistic pioneers whose aim, starting in the 1930s, was to build a distinctively Jamaican tradition in the visual arts. A cartoonist from an early age, Abrahams developed a highly idiosyncratic painterly style and iconography. In his works he employed cubist and expressionist techniques, a prophetic Christian sensibility, and a love of caricature to re-envision everyday Jamaican social life.

Carl Abrahams’s father was a Jewish émigré from Austria-Hungary. An engineer, from 1906 he began to build some of the island s first motorcars In interviews Abrahams indicates that his mother was the privileged but illegitimate child of a white English military officer and a black Jamaican woman Hence by birth Abrahams joined what at that time was referred to as the colored or brown middle class in a colonial ...

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Rebecca Martin Nagy

Ethiopian artist, was born in Ankober in Shewa Province, Ethiopia. As a young student Afewerk excelled in mathematics and draftsmanship. Recognizing these talents, the government of Emperor Haile Selassie provided a scholarship in 1947 for Afewerk to study mining engineering in England. Showing great promise as a visual artist, Afewerk soon received the emperor’s permission to transfer to London’s Central School of Arts and Crafts. Subsequently, he attended the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London. While studying there, he made several trips to the European continent to see and experience works of art firsthand.

Afewerk’s first solo exhibition of paintings in Addis Ababa, held at Municipality Hall in 1954 was not universally well received In particular an abstract interpretation of the Crucifixion inspired by European modernism now in the National Museum of Ethiopia was the subject of debate and controversy in a city with a centuries old ...

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Baye Yimam

Ethiopian painter, diplomat, customs director, entrepreneur, linguist, university professor, and novelist, was born in Zage, Gojjam province of Ethiopia, on 10 July 1868. His father, Gebre Iyesus Denke, was a priest serving a local church, and his mother, Fenta Tehun Adego Ayechew, was presumably a housewife. In Zage, then a center of learning, Afewerq learned the painting, poetry, church music, and liturgical dancing of the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian tradition.

Afewerq was related to Empress Taytu Betul, wife of Emperor Menilek (1844–1913 on account of which he was brought to the palace to continue what he had started in Zage He was later sent to Italy to further his studies at the Accademia Albertina di Belle Arti in Turin Upon his return from Italy he began to produce mural paintings by order of the palace and decorated the churches at Entotto then the capital city However he soon ...

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Rebecca Martin Nagy

Ethiopian artist, was born in the Gondar Administrative Region of Ethiopia in 1905. Another form of his name is Agegnehu Engeda. Although relatively little is known about his life and work, Agegnehu’s role as a pioneer among twentieth-century Ethiopian painters is noteworthy. At a time when the only opportunity for higher learning in Ethiopia was in church schools and the only training available to aspiring painters was through apprenticeship to church artists, the young Agegnehu Engida was sent to Paris to study painting at the École des Beaux-Arts from 1926 to 1933. According to Ladislas Farago, who interviewed Agegnehu in his home in Addis Ababa soon after the artist’s return from France, Agegnehu’s artistic abilities had been recognized by Haile Selassie, who arranged for him to study abroad. In 1926 Ras Tafari Mekonnen the future Emperor Haile Selassie was regent to Empress Zawditu and heir apparent to ...

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Emad Abdul-Latif

Egyptian poet, critic, broadcaster, painter, and physician, was born in the al-Hanafy district in Cairo. His father, Muhammad Abu Shadi, was the head of the Egyptian Bar Association and his mother, Amina Naguib, was a poetess. He completed his primary and secondary education in Cairo and was involved in antioccupation activities during his adolescence. He joined the faculty of medicine (named Qasr al-Aini) and then traveled to London in 1912 to complete his studies in medicine at the University of London where he obtained a certificate of honor from Saint George Hospital in 1915. He married a British woman and lived with her in Egypt until her death in 1945. Following his return to Egypt in 1922, he served in many governmental posts in such places as the Ministry of Health and the Faculty of Medicine, Alexandria University. In 1946 he immigrated to the United States ...

Article

María Elba Torres

was born in the neighborhood of Bélgica in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on 12 January 1928. His parents were José Rodríguez Torres, a lathe operator, and doña Esmeralda Alicea, a homemaker. He studied drawing and painting with don Miguel Pou, a painter who was also from Ponce. Alicea himself tells us that he paid for Master Pou’s classes with picture frames he built himself. In 1936, together with his neighbor William Haddock, who also lived in Bélgica, he made comic strips for the school in Ponce. The neighborhood he grew up in—as well as his mother and the Afroboricua music, dance, and songs present—all instilled in him an Afro-descendant consciousness.

Alicea joined the US Army in 1943 at the age of 14 Among his artistic mentors were the Spanish sculptor Francisco Vázquez Díaz known as Compostela and the graphic artist Lorenzo Homar He worked creating window displays a ...

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Amy J. Buono

Born around 1780 in Rio de Janeiro, Amaral was best known as an artist employed by the Luso-Brazilian Court in Rio. Details of Amaral’s early life and training are scant, including his parentage, but he lived and worked in Rio, where he studied under the artist José Leandro de Carvalho (c. 1770–1834). Amaral continued his studies at the officially sanctioned course of painting and drawing in Rio created by the Marquis of Aguiar (Fernando José de Portugal e Castro, viceroy between 1801 and 1806 The school was administered by the painter Manuel da Costa de Oliveira with whom Amaral studied stage design He also worked as the assistant of José Leandro at the São João Theater Amaral s talents were quickly recognized and he was summoned to do decorative work for the court leaving the theater behind Amaral s oeuvre is especially noteworthy in that it bridged the ...

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Cynthia Marie Canejo

was born on 22 March 1926 in Terra Roxa in the state of São Paulo. In 1934 he and his family relocated to the city of São Paulo. After studying painting at the Instituto Profissional Masculino (Men’s Professional Institute), São Paulo, from 1939 to 1943, he joined the Grupo dos 19, a group of nineteen artists linked by their interest in new expression, in 1947. In 1950 he continued his studies in printmaking at the École des Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts) in Paris.

Returning to Brazil in 1951, Araújo moved to Rio de Janeiro and found a position assisting the renowned Brazilian painter Cândido Portinari (1903–1962). In 1959 he won the first prize for printmaking at the Salão Para Todos (Salon for All) in Rio de Janeiro, and was awarded a trip to China. In 1960 he received a scholarship to study at ...

Article

Myrna Guerrero Villalona

was born in the San Carlos neighborhood of Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, on 16 June 1930, at the beginning of the dictatorship of Rafael L. Trujillo (1930–1961), and three months before the San Zenón hurricane flattened the city (3 September 1930).

Her parents were Porfirio Balcácer and Tomasina Rodríguez a couple with scarce financial resources who valued education as a way out of poverty In addition to Ada they had a son Porfirio Lorenzo Ada grew up between her parents home on Ravelo Street in San Carlos and the home of her maternal grandmother in San Juan de la Maguana The city located about 118 miles from Santo Domingo afforded Ada direct contact with myths and legends from the cultural reservoir of her country s heritage Her grandfather Catedral de los Santos was the overseer on a farm and a devotee ...

Article

Raul Zamudio

was born on 22 December 1960, in Brooklyn, New York. He was of mixed Afro-Caribbean ancestry, as his father, Gerard Basquiat, was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and his mother, Matilde Andrades, was born in Brooklyn of Puerto Rican parentage. Basquiat’s primary and secondary education in Brooklyn included both public and private, and religious and secular, institutions. His primary education was interrupted in 1968 when he was in a car accident, as a result of which his spleen had to be removed. As an adolescent, Basquiat attended Edward R. Murrow High School in his hometown borough, and before graduating he transferred to a Manhattan alternative school for gifted children. Basquiat left this nontraditional high school before graduation, but his father noted that his artistically gifted son was consistently drawing from an early age.

Basquiat s natural talent was nurtured by his parents which entailed trips with his mother to Brooklyn ...

Article

Fredo Rivera

was a prominent Haitian painter associated with the first generation of “naïve” or modern artists who came to prominence with the founding of the Centre d’art in Port-au-Prince. Born in Jacmel around 1923, little is recorded about the life of Castera prior to his becoming the houseboy of DeWitt Peters—founder and director of the Centre d’Art—in the mid-1940s. His association with Peters and his passion for painting gave Bazile access to the Centre d’art, of which he would become a member in November 1945. Despite a short career, Castera became a prolific painter and is particularly known for religious paintings and portraiture.

The religious paintings of Bazile often broached Christian and Vodou-based topics. In his 1950 painting Petro Ceremony, the artist depicts a popular Vodou ceremony associated with Haiti’s revolutionary roots. Placed indoors in a contemporary setting—a houmfor the painting depicts a female practitioner standing above ...

Article

Imani Roach

Romare Bearden was a visual artist whose career spanned the Harlem Renaissance, the Civil Rights era, and the culture wars of the 1980s. An accomplished painter, political cartoonist, and musician, he is best known for his collages and photomontages of everyday African American life. These rigorously controlled abstractions highlight the collective aspects of Bearden’s personal experience, and are as formally indebted to the Benin Bronzes and the jazz stylings of Bessie Smith as they are to the masters of the European canon.

Like many other Great Migration–era families, the Bearden’s moved, in 1914, from Bearden’s birthplace of Charlotte, North Carolina, to New York City. In the late 1910s and early 1920s, the Bearden household became a hub for thinkers, musicians, and artists of the Harlem Renaissance, from Duke Ellington and Countee Cullen to W. E. B. Du Bois and Langston Hughes This was only the ...

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Carmen Oquendo-Villar

José Bedia was born in Havana, Cuba, where he pursued his formal artistic education at the Academia de Artes Plásticas San Alejandro and at the Instituto Superior de Arte. He left Cuba in 1991 and spent a brief time in Mexico before establishing himself in Miami in 1993. Bedia's work—drawings on paper; oil paintings on canvas; works in ink, acrylic, charcoal, oil crayons; and installations—derives most of its power from Cuba's African heritage, sometimes bringing to mind Kongo cosmograms (geometric designs which carry religious meanings) and Abakuá (Afro-Cuban all-male secret societies) ideographic writing. Texts in Spanish, Yoruba, or Bantu languages accompany many of his pieces. Despite the deep presence of African art Bedia's work, Cuban critic Gerardo Mosquera has labeled it postmodern Kongo art because it does not pretend to be a reenactment of original African art.

Bedia s adherence to local attitudes does not prevent him ...

Article

Jennifer Carolina Gómez Menjívar

was born in Bluefields, Nicaragua, to a working-class family. The youngest of eleven children, she was a self-taught painter who began her career painting free portraits before becoming one of Nicaragua’s most renowned artists. Her paintings depicted the landscapes and people of that country’s Atlantic Coast, a historically marginalized region.

Beer is the only painter from Bluefields to have received national and international attention for her artwork. The city was a major port during the colonial period, when it was the capital of the British Protectorate of the Mosquito Coast. It was incorporated into Nicaragua in 1894, though it remained largely forgotten and ignored until the late twentieth century. Thus its primarily Afro-descendant and Afro-indigenous population remained economically and politically disenfranchised throughout its history. It was in this context that Beer raised four children as a single mother.

Beer began painting during a two year stay in the United ...

Article

Sherry Johnson

was born in San Juan, Trinidad, to parents who had the means to provide the artist with the tools necessary for her to explore a love of drawing. Little is known about her family background and early life. She developed her skills at high school at St. Joseph’s Convent, San Fernando, where, recognizing she could “do art,” her teachers encouraged her. In high school she often scored the highest grades in the visual arts—a fact that embarrassed her because, even then, her art did not follow conventional replications of the landscape like the British models she and her fellow students sought to emulate. These were the beginnings of what appeared to be her innate sensibility for abstract modern art.

In the late 1960s Belgrave attended Sir George Williams University now Concordia in Montreal Canada where she earned a B A in the fine arts and literature concurrently obtaining her degree ...

Article

Fredo Rivera

whose rich and surreal compositions have marked him as among the most prolific of his generation, was born in 1911. Little is known of the artist’s childhood and background, but many accounts note that Benoît worked as a cab driver and chauffeur, a shoemaker, and a decorator of pottery before becoming a full-time painter. Working as the chauffeur of Dewitt Peters—director of Haiti’s Centre d’Art—in 1944, Benoît became a painter associated with the Centre early in its founding. He would marry Hermithe, the daughter of artist Hector Hyppolite, establishing himself in Port-au-Prince as a prolific painter of everyday Haitian life as well as Haitian religion.

His early 1946 painting Landscape displays the means by which Benoît created dynamic landscapes that incorporate figures throughout the composition. In 1951 Benoît was commissioned to paint the nativity scene opening the apse mural of the Cathedral Ste Trinité in Port au ...

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Ghirmai Negash

avant-garde Eritrean novelist, playwright, and painter-cum-sculptor, was educated in Eritrea, Ethiopia, and at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, from which he graduated in 1963 with a degree in public administration and political science. Beyene Haile lived in Addis Ababa until Eritrean independence. In 1992, he moved to Asmara, where he worked as a management consultant and trainer while still pursuing his artistic career.

Beyene Haile is the author of three Tigrinya-language novels and a play. His 1965 debut novel, Abiduʾdo Teblewo? Madness differs from conventional Tigrinya writing in at least three fundamental ways First it takes an intellectual and artist as its main character and tells his story with compelling force and narrative skill Wounded by life the central character of the novel a bohemian artist called Mezgebe uses his art to heal his wounds and those of others in a manner that borders on insanity Another ...

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Fredo Rivera

whose diverse body of work made him among the most prominent of his generation, was born on 29 January 1929 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to Lexile Bigot, a peasant from Anse-à-Veau, and Talide Evrard of Pétionville. The artist was raised in the Portail Léogane suburb, which included the capital city’s red light district. Bigaud excelled in public school as an expert drawer and artist. He was discovered by famed Haitian painter Hector Hyppolite and became his apprentice at the tender age of 15. At 17, Bigaud was admitted as a member of the Centre d’Art, Haiti’s premier art institution. He became one of its youngest and most prolific artists by exploring themes regarding the construction of Haitian identity with painterly expertise.

By the age of 20 Bigaud had received a commission to complete a mural for one of the side interior walls of the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral of Ste Trinité in ...

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Paulette Smith

Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wilson Bigaud was introduced to so-called naive painting by Hector Hyppolite, one of Haiti's most famous artists. Deep melancholy and depression plagued Bigaud's exceptional but tragically short career. His famous canvas Paradis terrestre, recognized as one of the purest masterpieces of Haitian art, has single-handedly exported the magic of his vision of a black Adam to a broad international audience.

Bigaud's artistic talent was proclaimed to equal Brueghel's when he produced his Noces de Cana (Miracle of Cana, 1951), the famous 528-square-foot fresco decorating the Episcopal Cathedral of Port-au-Prince. Bigaud's impressive self-portrait (1958) best reveals the precision of his brushwork and the artist's desire for perfect control of his surroundings. In the painting he depicts himself in the apparel of the arrivé a Haitian term meaning the one who made it wearing a distinguished panama hat and dressed ...

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Gérald Alexis

was born in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti, on 11 February 1956 to a mother Rosita who sold fruits and vegetables and a father Morales who collected taxes from street traders Blaise spent his youth with four brothers and a sister in his family s modest home At the time of his birth Cap Haïtien was already known for the narrative and detailed style of a group of painters who had made a name for themselves on the local and international market Preferring to spend time with these artists he often skipped school where he was better known for his drawings than for his grades He thus had no remorse at leaving school at the age of 15 to turn to art in order to help his mother financially after the death of his father Because of the city s rich history artists from the region traditionally had a strong preference for ...