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Ashraf Jamal


For all the opportunistic and/or pathological expressions of black life today, and the celebratory glow which surrounds it, there remains an art that is irreducible to the conflicts of its time, even when it galvanises its urgencies. In this paper I note the exceptionality of Henry Ossawa Tanner, who captured the tenderness and profundity of familial love, and the importance of
mutual care—a deep humanitarian seam which ran counter to the racism of the time. I point to the missteps of Titus Kaphar and Kehinde Wiley, the ingenuity of Kerry James Marshall, the sublimity of Lynette Yiadom Boake. Finally, and fundamentally, I ask you to reconsider the persistently misunderstood and misperceived South African painter Nelson Makamo. If his children possess an oneiric quality, it is not because they are projected fantasies, but because they are dreams realised in this future-present moment—as treacherous as it is generative.

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