By Janiah B. Rorie
As we come to the end of February and Black History Month, I want to briefly summarize the experience from my visits to the Reynolda House Museum here in Winston-Salem for the exhibition Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite of which the Black Cinema film series was curated to celebrate. Our featured films were chosen from the 1960s and 1970s to highlight Brathwaite’s participation in the cultural movement that was “Black is Beautiful” which started in the 1960s to combat traditional European and Western beauty standards.
The exhibition focuses on photographs from the Black Arts Movement also known as the Harlem Renaissance, a critical period for African Americans where Brathwaite and his brother cofounded the African Jazz Art Society & Studios which was composed of designers, playwrights, dancers, artists, and the Grandassa models. The Grandassa models are a primary feature of the exhibit, with images of various African American women including Brathwaite’s wife. Also included were some of the garments and jewelry worn by the models at the time for some of the photos that were taken. My favorite part of the exhibition was that there was music playing the entire time that matched the aesthetic of Brathwaite’s photographs, as a lover of both visual and performance art it tied everything in for me in a personal way.
After visiting the Kwame Brathwaite exhibit and seeing all of the films featured in our Black Cinema series here at a/perture, I do wish that more people were able to have the full experience of viewing both the film series in its entirety and the exhibit. Seeing the exhibition once before the full series of films and once after provided a great deal of perspective. I hope in the future people will feel more comfortable to attend these collaborative events as the conversations with those who did come to view the films were engaging and insightful.