Black Portraiture[s]: Play and Performance, the seventh annual Black Portraiture[s] Conference
Image: Scheherazade Tillet, Keylamanjahro King, and Queen, Gold Rush in d Gulf, (Moko Jumbies). From the series Kiddies Carnival, Trinidad, and Tobago, 2020. Archival Pigment Ink Print.
Express Newark at Rutgers University-Newark is hosting Black Portraiture[s]: Play and Performance, the seventh annual Black Portraiture[s] Conference from Thursday, February 17 to Saturday, February 19, 2022. The three-day conference explores the theme of play and performance in past and contemporary African diasporic art and performance and will conclude with a series of groundbreaking keynote conversations for the 42nd Annual Marion Thompson Wright Lecture at the Newark Museum of Art.
Opening the conference on February 17 is Picturing Black Girlhood: Moments of Possibility, an exhibition that focuses on the concept of Black girlhood in over 150 works by 70 Black women, girls, and genderqueer photographers and filmmakers who range in age from 8 to 94 years old. Bringing pioneering Black photographers such as Carrie Mae Weems, Doris Derby, Lorraine O’Grady, Deborah Roberts, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Lola Flash, Tawny Chatmon, Sophia Nahli Allison, and others in conversation with over 30 Black girl photographers, Picturing Black Girlhood is curated by Scheherazade Tillet and Zoraida Lopez and is supported by the Express Newark curatorial team of Alliyah Allen and Anonda Bell.
On February 18, the Project for Empty Space gallery will host a reception for Scheherazade Tillet: Black Girl Play, an exhibition exploring the convergence of coming-of-age celebrations, community traditions, and radical play, at various points in the lives of Black girls. An important element of the exhibition is the radically beautiful resistance it presents against a historic American stereotype that robs Black girls of their childhood. Tillet’s photographs are reminders that joy and play are not only prevalent and normal but things to be preserved and validated. Black Girl Play is curated by Jasmine Wahi and Rebecca Jampol.
On the final day, the 42nd Annual Marion Thompson Wright Lecture will be held at the Newark Museum of Art, featuring keynote artists who all foreground the themes of play, utopia, and performances in their work. Conversations will take place from 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. and will include photographer Tyler Mitchell with Dr. Deborah Willis; visual artist Bisa Butler and Linda Harrison, the Director and the CEO of the Newark Museum of Art, and Grammy-award nominated jazz violinist Regina Carter in dialogue with renowned scholar Dr. Farah Jasmine Griffin, and playwright Dominique Morisseau in conversation with Kamilah Forbes, the Executive Producer of Apollo Theater.
The Annual Marion Thompson Wright Lecture (MTW) series was co-founded in 1981 by Clement A. Price, Giles R. Wright, and the MTW Study Club, who launched the series with the conviction that understanding the historical context of racism would aid in organizing struggles, building a beloved community and a better world. The conference is named in honor of East Orange native Marion Thompson Wright (1902–1962), the first black female to earn a history Ph.D.—the focus was on “The Education of Negroes in New Jersey” (Columbia University, 1941). Her research helped the NAACP overturn the “separate but equal” doctrine in “Brown v. Board of Education.” In her honor, the Marion Thompson Wright Lecture Series brings outstanding thinkers and doers of African and African American life and history. The MTW series is diverse, civically engaged, and devoted to life-long learners.
This event is hosted by Express Newark and the Clement Price Institute on Ethnicity, Culture and Modern Experience at Rutgers University–Newark, with additional major funding from the Ford Foundation, The Institute of the Study of Global Racial Justice at Rutgers University, Department of Photography and Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, The Institute of African American Affairs/Center for Black Visual Culture at New York University, New Jersey Council of the Humanities, New Jersey Historical Commission, and Prudential Financial.
The exhibitions are hosted by Express Newark and Project for Empty Space, with additional major funding from the Ford Foundation, A Long Walk Home, New Arts Justice, Grantmakers for Girls of Color, The Black Girl Freedom Fund, Duggal Visual Solutions, HarbourView Foundation, and co-sponsored by the New Arts Justice, Paul Robeson Galleries, and Shine Portrait Studio.