“Voices of the Coast” Unites Artists of the African Diaspora

Image Credit: Octopus by Gadi Rahmadani

May 2, 2021—The Harlem Arts Alliance (HAA), the African Artists Foundation, Carter Fine Arts Services and ArtJoose have joined forces to offer a conversational introduction and online preview of the “Voices of the Coast,” a transcontinental exhibition that will bring together artists and cultural commentators from the African Diaspora—the United States, Nigeria, Tanzania and South Africa. The virtual event will be held May 22 at 1 pm ET, 6 pm WAT, and 7 pm CET.

The free, online conversation and preview will be moderated by the renowned artist, curator and exhibition producer Gadi Ramadhani of Tanzania. The panelists of visual artists and cultural commentators participating with Gadi are: Esiri Erheriene-Essi, Azu Nwagbogu, Lady Skollie, and Danielle Scott.

I had the opportunity to interview Joyous Pierce, Executive Director of the Harlem Arts Alliance, about this event. Joyous is a multi-disciplinary creative, curator and cultural producer who prioritizes creative collaborations that expand the many worlds of the African Diaspora. She shared more details about the panel and the plans for the physical, transcontinental exhibition that will take place later this year.

Donna Walker-Kuhne: How did this collaboration come about?

Joyous Pierce: The history and future of arts and culture in Harlem is directly linked to the artistic contributions of the African Diasporic communities. The HAA celebrates these intersections of culture and identity and has a longstanding commitment to the growth of our member artists who claim that history as their own, and to expanding our diasporic and cultural connections to amplify the voices and stories within our community.

We recognize that while 2020 may have offered all of us adversity, one source of creative and economic uplift for our local artistic communities can be found in the strength of our shared pasts and futures as members of a larger global community. Our local and international partners and co-producers—the African Artists Foundation, Carter Fine Arts Services and ArtJoose—also recognize this.

The success of HAA’s 2020 virtual exhibitions “Say it Loud: Artist Talk & Consortium Part l – From Our Eyes Only;” Part II: Black Legacies Matter: Curating A New Standard For Equitable Artist Engagement, along with our 2019 Visual Arts Exhibition “Facing Forward: Pre-Visionaries,” demonstrated that as an advocate for artists in our community the Harlem Arts Alliance, working in partnership with our community, can bridge and build connections within diasporic spaces that center creative growth, connectedness, joy and economic independence as a community.

“Say it Loud,” was co-sponsored by the Corporate and Social Responsibility Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives of Christie’s, the famed auction house, which is expanding its efforts to use its platform in the art world to better amplify under-represented voices and support positive change.

Through the dialogues and intercontinental exchanges that the HAA has supported during the last year to 18 months, the conversations have continued to evolve and have given us opportunities to acknowledge and explore the intersection points of our shared history. “Voices of the Coast” takes these exchanges to the next level.

 Donna: What are your expectations?

 Joyous: During the Voices of the Coast: Virtual Panel Discussion & Exhibition Preview, we look forward to facilitating additional intercultural dialogue and holding space for greater interrogation and re-imagining of the African Diasporic past, present and future, along with expanding our understanding of our shared histories.

This panel discussion also serves as a precursor to the transcontinental exhibition that will open in both the U.S. and Nigeria later this year, as well as a platform for the work of featured artists and participants. The aim is to share ideas and expand on the curatorial abstract with input directly from our creative community during the panel discussion.

More than a conversation about a larger occurrence, we see this also as an opportunity to utilize the knowledge acquired through these exchanges to create economic sustainable opportunities for arts institutions doing this work.

Donna: In what way does this address equity and inclusion?

 Joyous: Centered on the principles of equity and inclusion of our broad and diverse diasporic communities, the virtual discussion and exhibition preview will address the “myth of the monolith” that many African and African Diasporic artists face. It will hold space for the artists to reimagine and reinterpret individual, as well as shared histories that include transcontinental exchange and colonization. Together, they will lift up the words written by the late Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison: “Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined.”

Donna: How does HAA benefit from this program?

Joyous: HAA is currently exploring and developing more sustainable practices as a Black-led Arts Service Organization. For details about what we do and for membership information, see this link.

Donna: Thanks, Joyous, for sharing the details about this important program. I encourage the readers of Arts & Cultural Connections to check out the panel discussion and exhibition preview. You can register for the free event at this link.

As always, I’d like to know what you think about the importance of building bridges throughout the African Diasporic communities. Please share your comments below.

Leave a Reply