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Black Womanhood: Images, Icons, and Ideologies of the African Body

Book relating to an exhibition, 2008
Published by: University of Washington Press
Year published: 2008
Number of pages: 374
ISBN: 978-0-295-98771-2

image of Black Womanhood: Images, Icons, and Ideologies of the African Body

Major exhibition catalogue for Black Womanhood: Images, Icons, and Ideologies of the African Body, originated by Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire and exhibited there April 1 - August 10, 2008 before touring to venues in Wellesley, Massachusetts and San Diego, California.

The exhibition was curated by Barbara Thompson, curator of African, Oceanic, and Native American Collections at the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, and featured contributions by the following artists: Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Renée Cox, Sokari Douglas Camp, Angéle Etoundi Essamba, Lalla Assia Essaydi, Emile Guebehi, Senzeni Marasela, Nandipha Mntambo, Zanele Muholi, Hassan Musa, Wangechi Mutu, Ingrid Mwangi/Robert Hutter - IngridMwangiRobertHutter Collective, Magdalene Odundo, Etiyé Dimma Poulsen, Alison Saar, Joyce J. Scott, Berni Searle, Fazal Sheikh, Malick Sidibé, Penny Siopsis, Maud Sulter, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, and Carla Williams.

From the flyleaf of this substantial exhibition catalogue (edited by Barbara Thompson):

“Explorations of contemporary art have focused on issues of identity and race for some time. Few, however, have sought to investigate these themes by juxtaposing historical and contemporary frameworks. Black Womanhood examines an especially charged icon - the black female body - and contemporary artists’ interventions upon historical images of black women as exotic Others, erotic fantasies, and super-maternal Mammies.

This book presents icons of the black female body as seen from three separate but intersecting perspectives: the traditional African, the colonial, and the contemporary global. The display and contemplation of such iconic images addresses complex and often competing forces of self-presentation and the representation of others. Peeling back layers of social, cultural, and political realities, Black Womanhood explores how historic icons inform contemporary artistic responses to the black female body through an examination of themes such as beauty, fertility and sexuality, maternity, and women’s roles and power in society.

Contributing editor Barbara Thompson, curator of African, Oceanic, and Native American Collections at the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College has compiled more than two hundred historical and contemporary images to accompany written contributions by artists, curators and scholars, including Ifi Amadiume, Ayo Abietou Coly, Christraud Geary, Enid Schildkrout, Kimberly Wallace-Sanders, Carla Williams, and Deborah Willis. This compelling volume makes a valuable contribution to ongoing discussions of race, gender, and sexuality by promoting a deeper understanding of past and present readings of black womanhood, both in Africa and in the West.”

In addition to the writers mentioned above, the catalogue included a text by Barbara Thompson.

Book’s contents as follows:

Lenders to the Exhibition

Foreword, by Brian P. Kennedy, Director, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College

Acknowledgments, by Barbara Thompson, Curator of African, Oceanic, and Native American Collections at the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College

Introduction, by Barbara Thompson


1 The African Female Body in the Cultural Imagination, Barbara Thompson

2 African Women’s Body Images in Postcolonial Discourse and Resistance to Neo-Crusaders, Ifi Amadiume

3 Les Parisiens d’Afrique: Mangbetu Women as Works of Art, Enid Schildkrout



4 The Black Female Body, the Postcard, and the Archives, Christraud Geary

5 The Body of a Myth: Embodying the Black Mammy Figure in Visual Culture, Kimberly Wallace-Sanders



6 Picturing the New Negro Woman, Deborah Willis

7 The Women Who Posed: Maudelle Bass and Florence Allen, Carla Williams

8 Housing and Homing the Black Female Body in France: Calixthe Beyala and the Legacy of Sarah Baartman and Josephine Baker, Ayo Abiétou Coly

9 Decolonizing Black Bodies: Personal Journeys in the Contemporary Voice, Barbara Thompson






Related people + view all 33

»  Ifi Amadiume

Born, 1947

»  Sokari Douglas Camp CBE

Born, 1958 in Buguma, Nigeria

»  Maud Sulter

Born, 1960 in Glasgow, Scotland. Died, 2008

»  Barbara Thompson

Born, 1960

»  Deborah Willis

Born, 1948 in Philadelphia, USA

Related exhibitions

Related venues

»  Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College

Wellesley, Massachusetts, United States of America

»  Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College

Hanover, New Hampshire, United States of America

»  San Diego Museum of Art

San Diego, California, United States of America