the 1980's is often considered "the Golden Age" of black consciousness - meaning so many of our creatives had or were building artistic platforms based on the foundations of the previous generation; there was a burgeoning sense of community and cultural aesthetic. pan-africanism was being extremely promoted through every outlet of black media (print, sound, sight) and was crossing over into mainstream thought and philosophies. educators were demanding afro-centric programs, rappers were chanting 'back to africa' as a way of improving our then-current social and political standings, african-inspired fashions were beginning to dominate our sense of style (african medallions instead of thick gold chains, kofis and crowns on our heads, abstract / geometrical designs dominated our hair styles, etc) - this "Golden Age" was the mainstreaming of the Black Arts Movement, building on the philosophies of black literature, politics and visual art. it was really a glorious feeling - there were negatives and growing pains, but such is to be expected whenever a counter-cultural phenomenon actively begins becoming more selective in what sustains it.
the system was beginning to tilt too much to one side for the comfort for all within the collective boundaries, this is how you know there is some sense of empowerment at stake for those within or on the periphery of such an event; so critiques came forth (with good intentions and detrimental ones) and said "we were wrong for romanticizing africa." this wasnt just an over-correction, this was a capsizing.
some of our most cultural creatives were alienated, some simply backed down, others took positions within the mainstream arenas hoping to eat the beast from inside the belly to out. name-calling ensued; cultural momentums fizzled. i distinctly remember the mid-90's feeling as if we were all walking in a haze of morphine - or 'cognac' and 'sticky icky', themes that were heavily featured in our surviving art-forms (mainly rap music), not merely 'urbanized' but now art-forms that glorified the trappings of a stylized ghetto. black folks weren't going back to africa. we were going back to asphalt, back to "the hood".
and now, a decade and a half later, when talking to the youth on the streets all you sense is detachment.
a whole generation was lost to "the white-t-shirt movement" - traditional black media failed staying relevant in a digital era while masters of the digital era heavily regulated cultural stereotypes in order to generate digital income. on television, radio and the internet our aesthetics are more rooted in "gangsta-gangsta" more-so than "i have a dream", "by any means necessary", and "the revolution will not be televised" combined!
now, the above page is taken from the 1973 edition of kenneth clark's "civilisation" - and i seriously doubt that most historians or art historians would openly agree with such assessments, but i also doubt that many of those same historians would privately feel any different than what was stated. greek and roman cultures are heavily lionized on every level of world education and entertainment, from disney to the louvre. the institutionalizing of the hellenistic aesthetic is what empowers all the branches of western society; there are other aesthetic branches of culture, but none as ideologically entrenched in everyday thought as what the west has enshrined around the globe.
dont get me wrong - this isnt a full-out rejection of all things western, or white... Crystal swears up and down that there is more than one victorian woman in my african ancestry - and i cant deny it, i enjoy a lot of that time frame, artistically / not socially.
all i'm saying is (insert artist statement here) :
that a people without control of the mythologies (oral or visual) that preceded them is not
respected as a world people and thus lacks the cultural influences beyond what is allowed them.
we must once again romanticize everything about us / granting new power to our old slogans:
black IS beautiful... and more importantly than that, black is canonical.