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African American Culture and Identity in Visual Arts


Different looks towards something gives a theory and history of ideas regarding identity with consideration of visual arts and practices in the African American culture. With the early modern belief that art is an expression of a person, the painted picture expressing a coherent viewing point has led to identity in the art world (Johnson, 80). To contemporary install arts, the use of scripture was started in the nineteenth century, which made the history of African cultures inspire art-making. Therefore there was political solidarity among African descent artists in the United States.

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During the colonial period, African American art (then) was marginalized, facing a lot of controversies. In forming the American identity, the art was rejected by the African entire cultural legacy until the beginning of the twentieth century, along with the fashion for Europeans of “Black Africa” supported by jazz fascination in the United States of America. In the 1920s and 1930s, African American artists came together central to American art and literature during Harlem Renaissance (Kimberly N. and Pinder, 230). The movement’s terms declared that the African Americans could freely cast their heritage, referred to as African American culture, defining them. Before, they had colonized and then liberated.

The New Negro movement developed a new idea of black identity that, through music, literature, and art production, influenced progressive politics and challenged the pervading racism. Although a uniting form did not characterize the art that emerged, it encompassed various styles with the Pan-African perspectives: the high and low culture; jazz and blues were enclosed from traditional music; introduction of experiments and conventional forms in literature: modernism and jazz poetry (Michael D. and Harris, 90). With the facilitation of the Harlem Renaissance, new authors emerged who highly attracted national attention.

Before African Americans protested against prejudice and injustice from the American society, they wore and styled as Americans. After the successful New Negro, there was increased pride among the “African Americans” expressed in several ways, including adherence to African heritage. In 1960 and 1970, black Americans started styling in ways they were more comfortable (Andrea D et al., 260). They adopted a slogan, “black is beautiful.” Instead of straightening their hair, which was painful and very damaging, they let their hair curly as for Africans; they wore loose clothes made from African fabric. Since then, there has been an appreciation of the Africa Americans’ attires.

Modernity is one essential quality observed by artistic groups in their styling works. They indeed embrace the emerging Afrocentric ideology. They are icons of pride and revolutionary change in the modern world.

The Harlem Renaissance did bring not only new literature but also new black American artists on board. They encompassed new rhythms of jazz and blues, which are interesting, bringing in so many listeners. There were celebrations of the contemporary artists, which made them have the African pride of identity.


For an extended period, Africa American culture grew separately from the American culture. This was encouraged by slavery, unending racial discrimination in the United States of America, and the desire to maintain and create their traditions. The present today, the Africa American culture has primarily and remains a popular distinct body culture.

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Works Cited

Andrea D. Barnwell, Kirsten P. Buick, Margaret Denny, Martin Fox, Jennifer Jankauskas, Dennis A. Narowcki, Mark Pascale, Kimberly N. Pinder, and Andrew Walker ( 1999)“A Portfolio of Works by African American Artists: Continuing the Dialogue: A Work in Progress.” African Americans in Art: Selections from the Art Institute of Chicago, pp. 180-219+265-267

Sargent Johnson’s (1934). Creating a New Negro Art in America. Indiana University Press, Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University collaborates with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Transition. pp. 75-87

Kimberly N. Pinder. (1997). “Our Father, God; our Brother, Christ; or are We Bastard Kin?” Images of Christ in African American Painting. Indiana State University. pp. 223-233

Michael D. Harris (1994). The Afrocentric Artist. UCLA James S. Coleman African Studies Center, pp. 44-53+94-95

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