Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite April 11–September 1, 2019,​ @ Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles

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Kwame Brathwaite. Self-portrait, African Jazz-Art Society & Studios (AJASS). Harlem, circa 1964. (Courtesy of the artist and Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles)

Inspired in part by the writings of Marcus Garvey, Kwame Brathwaite, his older brother, Elombe Brath, and the African Jazz Arts Society and Studios (AJASS) popularized the phrase “Black is Beautiful” in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Brathwaite and Brath did their part to spread this idea through Brathwaite’s writings and photographs, as well as the activities of the two organizations they helped co-found: AJASS (1956) and the Grandassa Models (1962).  In the late 1950’s Brathwaite and his older brother, Elombe Brath, became active in the African Nationalist Pioneer Movement (ANPM) led by Carlos Cooks. Brathwaite and Brath were also involved in the early struggle in Southern Africa. In 1961 they formed the Bronx-based South-West Africa Relief Committee to support Sam Nujoma’s South-West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) [and later, the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN)]. Parallel to these political activities, the two brothers were regularly producing concerts at such venues as Club 845 in the Bronx and Small’s Paradise in Harlem. Brathwaite took on the role of photographing these concerts, promoting them, and organizing the cultural activities that would often be held during the concerts, such as art shows and African dance performances. (read more here)

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Kwame Brathwaite. Black Is Beautiful poster, circa 1970. Designed by Bob Gumbs. (Courtesy of the artist and Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles)

LOS ANGELES — Black is beautiful.

It’s a catalyzing phrase that radically instilled pride among African Americans and redefined beauty standards around the world. The iconic slogan is also the title of Kwame Brathwaite’s first major museum exhibition at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

Black is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite explores the origins of the phrase through the visual imagery he created to promote natural beauty and the cultural flashpoints he captured on film that sparked the Black is Beautiful movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

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See the iconic images that amplified one of the most influential cultural movements of the 1960s: “Black Is Beautiful.” Featuring over forty photographs of black women and men with natural hair and clothes that reclaimed their African roots, Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite, organized by Aperture Foundation, New York, is the first-ever major exhibition dedicated to this key figure of the second Harlem Renaissance.

Black is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite is on view at the Skirball Cultural Center (2701 N Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049) through September 1. The exhibition was curated by Skirball managing curator Bethany Montagno; Aperture Foundation’s Michael Famighetti; and Kwame Brathwaite’s son, Kwame S. Brathwaite. The exhibition will travel to the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco and Columbia Museum of Art in South Carolina in late 2019 and 2020




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