BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL
- By Deborah Behrens
- Photos Courtesy of Skirball Cultural Center
Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite, presented by the Skirball Cultural Center and organized by Aperture Foundation, New York, is the first-ever major exhibition dedicated to this key figure of the second Harlem Renaissance who used photography to amplify and popularize the political slogan, “Black Is Beautiful.” Inspired by the writings of black activist Marcus Garvey, Brathwaite and his brother Elombe Brath founded the artist collective African Jazz-Art Society and Studios in 1956 followed by Grandassa Models, a modeling group for black women, in 1962.
AJASS produced the revolutionary “Naturally ‘62” fashion show featuring nonprofessional dark skin models with unprocessed hair wearing Afrocentric clothes. It and subsequent “Naturally” shows paved the way for black designers, stylists, hairdressers and makeup artists. Brathwaite’s photos celebrated black beauty, helping influence magazines such as Ebony and Harper’s Bazaar to hire darker-skinned models while creating demand for new black publications like Essence (1970). During an era of enforced segregation, Brathwaite challenged mainstream beauty standards that excluded or diminished women of color.
April 11 – September 19. For more information, click here.