Juneteenth – an annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, has been celebrated by African-Americans since the late 1800s. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln, many enslaved African-Americans were only informed of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended more than two years later on June 19, 1865. Since then, June 19th has been annual day of celebration amongst African American communities. However, it was not until this year that the US announced that it will officially recognize Juneteenth as a federal holiday, after Joe Biden signed a bill into law on Thursday. To celebrate, we’re sharing the work of six African American artists – exploring various themes from environmentalism and climate to social change within the Black community in America.
“Climate change is not something that’s coming for everyone equally.” (2020, Berlin Art Link)
Allison Janae Hamilton is a visual artist born in Kentucky, raised in Florida. Using plant matter, layered imagery, complex sounds, and animal remains, Hamilton creates immersive spaces that consider the ways that the American landscapes contribute to our ideas of “Americana” and our social relationships to space in the face of a changing climate, particularly within the rural American south.
“Society conditions Black people to believe sports are the only viable pathway to obtain some form of safety from the inequities of Black American life.” (2021, SomethingCurated)
Over the course of history, Black athletes have continued to push towards the equality in the sports sector whilst racist white fans have often pushed back, demanding that black athletes play without politics. Armstrong explores this push and pull in his work while combining historical, everyday, and imaginative imagery, rendered in bold colours, to depict the lives of Black people in America.
“The big thing was accessing African traditions. They were the pinnacle for me: a way to tie myself to something old. I thought, if I can get close to this root, something will happen.” (2020, Artnews)
Bracken incorporates West African weaving, European tapestries and quilting from the American South to form the base of his tapestries. He also adopts the use of commercial dyes as well as unconventional colourants such as wine, tea and bleach. These individual elements combine in a narrative which explores the artist’s identity as a queer Black man within the context of where he grew up, the South.
“Through photographs, videos, and text I use my artwork as a platform to advocate for others, the oppressed, the disenfranchised” (2018, Contemporaryand)
LaToya Ruby Frazier is an American artist and professor of photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. One of her most notable projects was made during the five months she spent living in Flint, Michigan where she documented the lives of those affected by the city’s water crisis for her photo essay ‘Flint is Family’. During her time in Michigan, the artist spent her time with three generations of women–the poet Shea Cobb, her mother Renee, and daughter Zion–observing their day-to-day lives as they endured one of the most devastating ecological disasters in US history: the water crisis in their hometown.
“My interest in art is accompanied by a strong interest in history, more specifically African diasporic history.” (itsnicethat, 2021)
Marcus Brutus is born and raised in Maryland to two Haitian parents. During his upbringing, he was exposed to art through his school trip visits to the National Gallery of the Arts. Brutus is a figurative painter who depicts scenes from daily life, both real and imagined. All the figures in his work are African American, depicting a vast breath of emotions and histories embedded in black experience.
“But it took the artwork to put a face on that history, an identity that now creates entirely new conversations, entirely new curiosity around what happened on that date.” (2021, Texas Monthly)
Reginald Adams and his team of five artists transformed a previously nondescript grey wall in downtown Galveston. The artist and his team painted a mural — which includes several scenes, or “portals” — to honour the celebration of Juneteenth. Large painted words at the bottom read “Absolute Equality” — the mural’s name. Their studio is world renowned for award winning tile mosaic murals, sculptures, and art installations which are strategically located in historically marginalized communities across the U.S.
Content brought to you by Yellow
Yellow is a London-based arts platform that specialises in showcasing and providing support to artists from the African, Caribbean and Asian Diaspora, through content creation, live events, exhibitions and mentorship. Co-founder by siblings Aisha and Oreoluwa Ayoade, the enterprise started as a print and online magazine in 2017, however over the past four years Yellow has developed into a supportive enterprise with a community of over 6,000 artists and creatives.
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