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José Bedia, Júbilo de Aponte, 2017, mixed media on mixed papers Courtesy of the artist

These Artists Re-Imagined The Artwork of an Afro-Cuban Revolutionary

'Visionary Aponte: Art and Black Freedom' is a new exhibition bringing a lost book of paintings to life.

To date, the court testimony of José Antonio Aponte, a free black man thought to be of Yoruba origin and eponym of the doomed 1812 anti-slavery rebellion in Cuba that bears his name, is the only evidence of an unusual historical artifact, a so-called libro de pinturas or "book of paintings," found hidden in his home by colonial authorities.


Though the book remains lost, the 72 images that Aponte describes, many of which depict an evocative vision of black history, continue to exist in the imagination of scholars and artists alike. Now, more than two centuries later, a group of artists have attempted to recreate Aponte's revolutionary "book of paintings," as part of a new exhibition entitled, "Visionary Aponte: Art and Black Freedom."

15 artists were invited to participate to "pay homage to the singularity of Jose Antonio Aponte's world vision," explains Édouard Duval-Carrié. The Haitian-born artist and Miami resident is one of several curators of the exhibit, as well as one of its featured artists. In fact, it was Duval-Carrié that approached fellow curator Ada Ferrer with the idea to do an exhibit after coming across her book, Freedom's Mirror: Cuba and Haiti in the Age of Revolution.

Édouard Duval-Carrié, Prester John's Emissaries, 2017, mixed media on paper in artist's frame Courtesy of the artist

"Édouard's idea, I think, also intersected with scholarly interest in broadening our understanding of Aponte as the artist behind this lost work of art," says Linda Rodriguez, an Aponte scholar and another of the exhibit's curators. She and Ferrer also helped to organize a symposium in 2015 which in turn led to a project entitled Digital Aponte, a recently launched website dedicated to the life and work of Aponte.

In a way, "Visionary Aponte: Art and Black Freedom" expands upon at least one of the aims of the symposium, which Rodriguez describes as "thinking deeply about Aponte as a creator, in addition to his role as an organizer of slave rebellions." The result is a wide-ranging exhibit of artwork by mostly Caribbean artists, as well as the more general African diaspora of the Americas, in which Aponte's book becomes what Rodriguez hopes viewers will recognize as a "living object."

"Some like Marielle Plaisir (Martinique) and myself went to great lengths to reconstruct the images (laminas) as they were interpreted in the trial's transcripts," Duval-Carrié explains. "Others such as Jose Bedia (Cuba) and Renée Stout (USA) were more interested in conveying the general spirit behind the the book itself particularly their understanding of Kongo cultures as they expressed themselves in the New World and as they understood it. While many others just had gut reactions to the story itself."

Marielle Plaisir, Lámina 23, 2017, inks, gold pigment, pencils on paper Courtesy of the artist

It certainly helps that the "book of paintings" is itself a rich source of imagery. "Aponte represented figures and scenes that spanned centuries and continents, including Greco-Roman mythological figures, scenes from Bible, personages from Ethiopian history, buildings and locations in Havana, depictions of Europe and Asia, and members of his own family," says Rodriguez. (For a full list of the book's subject matter, go here.)

Still, there is an almost inscrutable quality to Aponte's book. "Likely, colonial authorities used the word "painting" as they had no other way to succinctly describe what they were seeing," says Rodriguez. Moreover, the book was perceived to be a subversive threat. "Colonial officials believed Aponte's book to be central to his organizing and they focused a lot of their energy on trying to understand it," according to Rodríguez.

In Ferrer's opinion, "The exhibit provides a tangible example of the ways art and politics can each inform the other." "Aponte used his art to imagine other worlds, and that process of imagining other worlds was also part of his revolutionary politics," she continues.

"It resonates in a lot of ways with our contemporary debates on the politics of representation," adds Rodriguez. She cites the #OscarsSoWhite campaign by April Reign as one such example: "She [Reign] has talked about how she wanted her campaign to question the structural reasons behind the lack of inclusive storytelling. In similar ways, Aponte recognized the importance of the visual to write known and new histories at the service of an imagined and more equal future."

Among other things, Ferrer hopes that those who see the exhibit will develop "a knowledge and appreciation of Aponte as both an antislavery revolutionary and as an artist and creator." Yet it is a much broader perspective on display, as Rodriguez notes: "Aponte's vision of the African diaspora, and black history provided his viewers with a vision of belonging."

"Visionary Aponte: Art and Black Freedom" opens on December 8th at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex in Miami, FL. Afterwards, the exhibit will be on display at the NYU King Juan Carlos of Spain Center in New York from February to May 2018, before making its way to Duke University in the Fall of 2018.

Juan Roberto Diago, Tarraco, 2017 Courtesy of the artist

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Black Twitter's Reactions To Meghan Markle & Prince Harry's #RoyalBaby Announcement Are Too Funny

Congrats are in order, but first to Black Twitter for continuing to hold it down with the jokes.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, the Duchess and Duke of Sussex, have been the internet's brief moment of mindless, happy news since they became engaged, then married earlier this year.

Kensington Palace took to Twitter again this morning to announce that the couple will be expecting their first bundle of joy next spring.

Since the LA-native and former star of Suits made her way into the royal family, Black Twitter has had no shame sharing their hilarious thoughts and commentary, and the pregnancy announcement has been no different.

Have a laugh and take a look at some of our favorite reactions from them below.

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People Aren't Happy About Kanye West Visiting Uganda, Comparing Himself to Fela

The rapper is being called out for visiting President Museveni after his treatment of Bobi Wine. Seun Kuti also reacted saying, "the spirit of Fela Kuti isn't anywhere near Kanye West."

By now you've heard that Kanye West delayed the release of his new album, Yandhi, to finish recording in "what is known as Africa."

"He wants to draw inspiration from the earth there," TMZ quoted Kanye as saying two weeks ago. "I felt this energy when I was in Chicago," Kanye mentioned then, "I felt the roots. But we have to go to what is known as Africa. I just need to go, to find out what it's really called, and just grab the soil."

Well Kanye has now made it over to Africa, more specifically, Uganda. His trip follows a now infamous White House meeting in which he hugged Donald Trump saying "I love this guy right here."

Kanye was first shown in a live video from Uganda dancing to Mystro and Wizkid's "Immediately." The clip was shot and posted by Bankulli, who used to work with D'banj when he was signed to GOOD Music and now works with Mystro.

Kanye and his wife Kim Kardashian also met with Ugandan President Museveni. The President said he and the rapper held "fruitful discussions" about promoting tourism and arts.

Kanye gifted President Museveni—a man who is accused internationally of overseeing the torture and unjust imprisonment of musician and opposition politician Bobi Wine—a pair of white sneakers.

Museveni has called the reports of torture against Bobi Wine "fake news."

Apart from that, Kanye has been posting several periscopes of his rants. Many of them are titled "Mind Control" and the longest of them has him declaring himself to be the "the best living recording artist."

In that same video, Kanye says he has the spirits of Fela Kuti, Bob Marley and Tupac Shakur "flowing through him." Billboard has the full transcript if you really feel like your mind needs that.

Naturally, given his current embracement of Donald Trump and, in association, far right politics, many people aren't happy with Kanye visiting Uganda (or anywhere on the African continent) and meeting with Museveni.

Seun Kuti replied on Instagram writing, "Erm erm on behalf of the Kuti family , I want to state that the spirit of Olufela Anikulapo Kuti isn't anywhere near Kanye West. Ziggy Marley over to you. 🤣🤣🤣😂😂😂 Ebro come get ur boi before I #getthesax"

See some reactions below.





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Family Demands Justice In Killing of Unarmed Nigerian-American Man Chinedu Valentine Okobi

Black lives matter.

Chinedu Valentine Okobi, a 36-year-old Nigerian-American man died on Wednesday, October 5 after being tasered by police officers in Northern California, the LA Times reports. Okobi was unarmed at the time of his killing.

Okobi, who suffered from mental illness—according to his sister, Ebele Okobi, Facebook's Head of Public Policy, Africawas reportedly running in and out of traffic in Millbrae, an area south of San Francisco, when he got into a "struggle" with an officer who approached him, says San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

Four other cops were called in, and one shot a Taser gun at Okobi as he was being taken into custody. Okobi was later taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

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