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Art as Advocacy: Explorations into Literary and Visual Art to Provoke ChangebyPerrine Punwani
Art as Advocacy: Explorations into Literary and Visual Art to Provoke Change will consider essays, videos, interviews, poetry, and visual art whose aim is to highlight issues of social concern to disrupt the current conversation. Middle school students are developmentally at an age where they are ready to engage with the world outside of the classroom and need an outlet by which to do so. Students will learn about social struggles related to the specific periods and places of focus, study different artists’ pieces in reaction to social issues, and write and speak about the messages conveyed by the art and the techniques used to convey them. After learning the craft, students will then be charged with creating their own artist’s collectives, which will involve writing their themes and principles of design. They will then be required to write an essay explaining their collective’s mission and brand and to create artwork following those standards based on local issues they would like to disrupt. Finally, we will hold an exhibition of their collective’s art and put it on public display with changemakers as our audience.
Hardy Middle School is the most diverse middle school in Washington, D.C. We have students who come from all over the world and speak a multitude of languages; students who come to us from across the city and every income background; and, just as in society, we have students of every gender and sexual orientation. Though we are proud of this diversity, we don’t explore and value it enough. In this unit, I would like to celebrate our diversity by giving students more windows and mirrors to deepen their empathy and understanding of their peers and themselves, while developing a stronger self-concept. Though the District of Columbia Public Schools’ focus for eighth grade English Language Arts is on Black History and unheard or silenced voices, most of what we teach is, frankly, depressing. Students, especially Black students, have told me that they are demoralized when learning about the brutality of slavery and the injustice of Jim Crow, without being given more stories of hope. Though D.C. students learn about the civil rights movement, for many of them, that is the end of examples of people of color having agency in their own stories.
Developmentally, eighth graders are at a stage where they are engaged in social issues and want an outlet by which to engage with the larger world. This is a good age at which to channel their angst and sense of agency into advocacy. Furthermore, due to budget cuts, we are losing our phenomenal visual arts program; therefore, I also aim to give students a creative artistic outlet, while still meeting key English Language Arts objectives regarding the art of persuasion.
Through “Art as Advocacy,” students will engage in a deep exploration of modern social movements by reading articles and essays from writers in the United States and around the world and studying various forms of visual art. They will consider issues related to social justice in Asia, South Africa, and the United States.
Introduction to the Role of the Artist as an Advocate
Audre Lorde: “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action”
The unit will begin through a close reading of Audre Lorde’s “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action.” Lorde was a key figure in both the Black feminist and LGBTQIA movements. Her writing explored the multiple facets of identity and looked at ways to unify diverse groups of people.1
She published “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” in her 1984 anthology, Sister Outsider. In this essay, Lorde describes how a near-death experience when she was diagnosed with breast cancer forced her to re-examine her life and the way she used her voice.2 She notes how women’s voices are so often silenced, by society and by themselves. She uses her voice as a Black lesbian to argue that this silence, borne out of fear, is used as a survival mechanism. However, silence as a survival mechanism cuts both ways: it is harming the very people who keep silent. She notes that “Death…is the final silence” and she realizes that she is “a warrior” as well as a casualty in death’s ultimate pursuit. Therefore, she rallies her audience to join in a shared commitment to transform “silence into language and action” before it is too late.3 This piece, given the nature of the unit, will serve as the anchor text, supplying students with the themes for the unit as well as a rallying cry for action over silence. We define silence here as the innate need to quiet ourselves when we see injustice. We are too often content with complacency, too afraid to rock the boat or risk losing acceptance. This unit pushes students to see the benefits of speaking up instead of self-silencing. This text will be paired with Jonathan Harris’ print, Critical Race Theory, to give students a visual representation of one of the dangers of silence.
Jonathan Harris’: Critical Race Theory
Jonathan Harris is a young Black artist whose work revolves around the modern African American experience. One of his goals is to bring pride to the Black community while raising awareness about social and world issues. In his 2021 piece, Critical Race Theory, which went viral when a social justice non-profit, The Other 98%, posted it on their social media to their 6.5 million followers, and then it was reposted by Black Lives Matter Oklahoma, City. From there, people kept reposting it. The print depicts a white blond male painting white paint over a canvas featuring prominent civil rights leaders standing on a road. The most recognizable ones left are Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Harriet Tubman. Harris stated that even these three are in danger of being lost to whitewashing. The road is representative of the progress that America has made towards achieving equality. The artist fears that with the current trajectory in which many states are moving now in reaction to fears about Critical Race Theory, those gains, too, are in danger of being erased.
Critical Race Theory in concert with “The Transformation of Silence into Action” will help hook students, while allowing them to understand how artists can clearly show us their predictions for the future.4
Activist Art from the Black Power Movement
Jeff Donaldson: AfriCOBRA Manifesto
In this first manifesto by Jeff Donaldson, one of the founders of the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (AfriCOBRA), the author outlines his idea for creating a group for Black people. He uses sharp prose, thoughtful fragments, and extended metaphors to discuss the hopes of the civil rights movement as led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and the idealistic dream that Black Americans would be welcomed into mainstream white America. He is careful to use quotation marks around the word “negro” to describe his thoughts before the assassinations of not only King but several civil rights leaders in the United States and abroad. He then introduces new ideas, including the reclamation of the word “Black” as a positive description of the diaspora. After comparing the dreamers to balloons and then poetically describing King’s murder as, “And then the dreamer’s dreamer had his balloon busted on a Memphis motel balcony. And that was the last balloon,” he speaks of the need for a revolution.5
Along with Stokely Carmichael’s calls for Black Power as the leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Donaldson calls for Black artists to come together in AfriCOBRA to celebrate what is beautiful within the culture. He calls for artists in his collective to include images that deal with the past, the present, and the future and for all art in this collective to be able to be reproduced into poster form for the people. Unlike the Eurocentric museum institutions which celebrate the old white masters and are kept from those who are not considered cultured, AfriCOBRA aims to make art that “offers positive and feasible solutions to our individual, local, national, international, and cosmic problems.”6 He has laid out qualities that his collective chooses to highlight in their poster images: free symmetry; organic looking, feeling forms; shine; and “coolade” colors for “superreal people.” Much of the artwork also includes words to help the audience understand the direction of the image’s message.7
This piece is another anchor text in the study of art. It shows the possibility of using art to imagine and advocate for a brighter and more joyful future. It also offers beautiful prose that is ripe for close reading and analysis. This piece will teach students what both a manifesto and a collective are to help them better understand how to write their manifesto and run their artist collective for the culminating project. Following a close reading and analysis of the piece, students will study several images from AfriCOBRA artists, trying to find what the article tells them they hope for the audience to see.
Barbara Jones-Hogu: To Be Free
Barbara Jones-Hogu, also one of the co-founders of AfriCOBRA, was an art student in 1968 when Jeff Donaldson convened a meeting of the artists who would form the collective. Before becoming part of AfriCOBRA, her art was much more negative and the colors she used were primarily red, white, blue, and black. Her contribution to AfriCOBRA’s artistic vision was the lettering, which would become its statement piece.8 In To Be Free, we see an image in the coolade colors of orange, strawberry, cherry, lemon, and grape, of a woman staring directly toward the viewer. At the top of the painting, the letters “TCB” are displayed abstractly as an acronym for “Taking Care of Business” and on the woman’s forehead, we see a light circle in which the words “To Be Free” are lettered. Jones-Hogu states that she was inspired by her travels in Africa where she saw that oftentimes revered performers were gifted with coins in the middle of their foreheads.9 This is similar to the idea of revering the third eye in Indian traditions as it is the creative and spiritual center of the body. Hogu-Jones wants the viewer to place these important words in their minds.
To the left of “To Be Free” on the woman’s forehead, Hogu-Jones has lettered “Relate” and to the left of the woman’s head we see the words, “We must protect our community” and to the right, “Come together. Learn to be friends.” Finally, the letters of the title and central idea, “To Be Free” are dispersed throughout this powerful woman’s hair as a reminder of the intention. Freedom means protecting and respecting our communities and relating to each other.10
This piece of art is a powerful way for students to study the intentionality of symbolism in advocacy. Students will be interested in learning about Barbara Hogu-Jones’ journey in AfriCOBRA and as such, they will read a 2012 interview of the artist from the Nka Journal of Contemporary African Art. This will help them understand how the collective came together to help each other with their artwork and make it cohesive. Since the end goal is for students to create their collectives and art based on their principles, this will be an excellent instructive piece.
Wadsworth Jarrell: Three Queens
Wadsworth Jarrell was one of the founding artists of the AfriCOBRA collective and wholeheartedly embraced its mission to empower people in the Black diaspora. Three Queens celebrates the beauty of Black women by rejecting Eurocentric beauty norms and loudly proclaiming that “Black Women are Beautiful.” For hundreds of years, Black women have been forced to conform to white beauty standards, especially concerning their hair. Before the “Black is Beautiful” movement, women were expected to chemically straighten their hair. This not only damaged hair but was psychologically damaging by implying that natural hair was not beautiful. In this piece, Jarrell calls on women to “Stop Buying Chuck’s Wigs and Make-Up”, “Chuck” being a slang term for white people at the time. The piece is painted using AfriCOBRA’s “coolade” color palette, emphasizing the shine and brightness of the Black community. The piece is also filled with phrases such as “Fros are Beautiful” and “Let Your Hair Grow Natural.” Finally, stylized letter Bs radiate from each of the women, projecting the symbol of AfriCOBRA. This piece of art is bright and hopeful and conveys a powerful message of self-love.11
While analyzing this piece of art, students will consider who it is directed to and what the greater message is. How might have this piece been perceived at the time? How can art be used to help rebuild one’s sense of self-worth? Students should also consider how the artist followed AfriCOBRA’s principles outlined in their manifesto.
Gerald Williams: I am Somebody
Gerald Williams was a co-founder of AfriCOBRA and embraced the collective’s message wholeheartedly in this piece. I am Somebody depicts a man with his eyes closed and his head tilted down. His skin is colored in coolade colors as are the words emanating from him. The most prominent colors in the image are purple, yellow, red, and pink. The man’s expression is calm, yet his chin is jutting out, which can be interpreted as determination. The words make his feelings and thoughts visible to the audience. They say, “I am somebody” multiple times and “Maker of all things.” In small writing to the left of his face, the text reads, “No being can be my judge.”12
In this piece, Williams is reasserting the self-worth of Black Americans in a society that has denied it for hundreds of years. With the simple phrase, “I am somebody,” he shows the reader that he will not accept being treated as anything less than a full human being. He has to internalize this fact and wants to spread the message further.
Williams based his painting on a poem of the same name written by civil rights activist Reverend William Holmes Borders, Sr.13 Reverend Jesse Jackson famously recited this poem on the children’s show Sesame Street in 1972.14 Teachers may choose to read the original poem or watch the recording of Jesse Jackson to pair with this piece.
Current Activist Artists
At this point in the unit, students will have been immersed in AfriCOBRA artists’ work from the beginning of the Black Power movement. To bridge the gap between art created half a century ago to address the people of that time and where students will end up by creating original art to advocate for change on issues relevant to them, we will look at several current artists and how they are expressing their messages. To increase the diversity of the issues of exploration, we will now look at artists from the American LGBTQIA+, indigenous, and Black and Afro Latinx communities in addition to artists from India and China. This change in focus will allow students to use the same skills they learned to make sense of the AfriCOBRA art to derive meaning from these current artists.
Geralyn Montano is a multiracial woman who identifies as Latinx and Native American. Her artwork emphasizes her indigenous identity. She explains that as a child, she was forced to assimilate into mainstream “America” and as she grew up, she began to learn about her Dine’ culture. Her paternal grandfather, like so many others of his generation and generations before him, was sent to an Indian boarding school in an attempt at cultural genocide. This led to intergenerational trauma which Montano grapples with in much of her artwork.15 The piece that we will be considering, however, is called “Sundance in Red.” It depicts a young girl with two long shiny black braids wearing bright red lipstick and a matching red dress with a leopard print border. The girl is wearing fishnet stockings and is looking down at her huge red platform high-heel shoes. Her left arm is not in view, but on her right wrist is a pair of leopard print handcuffs. One end is fastened to her wrist, while the other dangles down. Her hand is balled into a fist. Around the entire image are symbols of buffalo skulls.16 Alternating between the buffalo skulls are cutouts of dolls.17
The title of this is an allusion to the Lakota and Plains Indians’ tradition of the Sun Dance. Sun dances were among the most important rituals to these nations and consisted of annual gatherings where young men who were praying for things such as better hunting or fighting skills or healing powers would dance for nearly four days straight while looking at the sun. The tribal holy men would put a circle of buffalo skulls around the dancers. The dancers would adorn themselves with purifying rings of sage on their heads, wrists, and ankles.18
Montano, however, has turned the meaning of the Sun Dance on its head in this mixed-media piece. The little girl has taken the place of the men as the strong Sun Dancer, her wrists are no longer ringed in sage but oppressive handcuffs symbolizing not only the bondage sexual fetish but the prevalence of sex trafficking on Native American reservations.19 According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 40 percent of the victims of sex trafficking are Native women and girls, though they make up 10 percent of the United States population.20
Unlike the boys who celebrate and pray, this girl is looking down at the tools of her enslavers: the fishnet stockings and the too-big red pumps. Montano highlighted the color red in this piece to evoke the sense of redlight districts where girls such as this one, would be forced to sell their bodies. This little girl is being exploited instead of being blessed, though she is still surrounded by a circle of buffalo skulls. Montano cut out and collaged the dolls along the outer rim of the piece from articles about sex trafficking. She explains that they “symbolize girls and women standing in solidarity to fight the atrocious injustice of sex trafficking.”21
Garry Gottfriedson is a poet from the Secwépemc nation who lives in Kamloops, British Columbia. He writes about modern life as an indigenous person and has published several works. His book of poems, Clinging to Bone, considers the Secwépemc people today with a look back into the past as well. His short lowercase poems touch on survival, grief, love, and betrayal.22
Gottfriedson’s poem, “And Just Like That” touches on the intergenerational trauma faced by indigenous peoples of North America. He makes mention of the stories of survivors from residential schools, gun violence, the Canadian government’s intransigence about admitting fault for the mistreatment of its indigenous peoples, and “murdered and missing women/now driven by blood red songs.”23
This last piece forms a direct connection to Geralyn Montano’s “Sundance in Red” and, therefore, I will pair this poem with her art. Students will be able to analyze both together and look for connections and deeper meanings. Further, I hope it inspires them to do independent research into indigenous peoples of North America.
Clotilde Jiménez is an American painter and collagist who uses multimedia collage to share glimpses into his memories. He challenges a heteronormative view of the world and pushes his viewer to consider his central question, “ ‘What is so queer about queerness?’ ”24
“Fruity Boys” is a collage depicting three children in front of a white picket fence. Each has short hair and each has eyes collaged into the painting from a different source. There are pops of bright mustard, blue, and red in the piece. The boys are leaning on each other in what could be interpreted as friendship as they each construct breasts for themselves out of cantaloupes and honeydews.25 This gives the title a double entendre as the boys are all pictured with fruit and they are all experimenting with their gender and sexuality. The white picket fence is a traditional image to depict the idea of the American Dream or suburbia and the boys are dressed in summery clothes, so the scene seems to be a natural fit for summer vacation. In this piece, Jiménez is normalizing this experimentation in this setting.
This image will serve as both a mirror for my students who are not CIS gendered and those who identify as LGBTQIA and as a door to those students who identify as CIS gendered and/or heterosexual. This painting will be part of a station rotation activity for the class in addition to the work of Nick Cave, Zanele Muholi, Nalini Malani, and Ai Weiwei.
Nick Cave: “Soundsuits”
American performance artist, sculptor, fabric designer, and dancer, Nick Cave, is best known for his “Soundsuits” series. He created his first soundsuit in the wake of the 1992 Rodney King beating in Los Angeles. As a Black man, he was especially shaken by the violence and started to fabricate a costume made out of twigs. When he put it on, he realized that no one could identify his class, ethnicity, sexuality, or any other perceivable means of discrimination. He wants his soundsuits to continue to protect his identity.26
Over time, Cave has made more elaborate soundsuits using found items such as sisal, buttons, dyed human hair, beads, wire, feather, and sequins. They have been displayed as sculptures, but more interestingly, as dancing sculptures in street performances. He often choreographs and participates in dances, enveloped in his anonymity, using West African dance moves as a way of reclaiming the public space for the people instead of the police. At their core, they represent Cave’s need to lash out against the horrors of our world but prevent him from doing so by providing the safety of anonymity.27
Nick Cave’s experimentation with fashion, sculpture, and dance will give students a different perspective of art as advocacy. Students will experience his work as part of the station rotation activity.
South African visual artist, Zanele Muholi, uses portraiture to advocate for African lesbians. In their book, Faces and Phases, they have photographed queer subjects to reframe the narrative around homosexuality and gender. In two-thirds of African countries, homosexuality is viewed as deviant and the consequences for being openly out can be severe, including murder and “corrective rape”, a practice where a person who identifies as homosexual is raped as either punishment or in an attempt to “cure” them and make them heterosexual. Muholi attempts to change that narrative through her portraits of lesbians and transgendered people, depicting their humanity and beauty.28
Though South Africa’s constitution protects against discrimination based on sexuality and gender, those in power don’t always heed their own laws. A culture minister famously walked out on one of Muholi’s exhibits because he said her work was “immoral, offensive [and] against nation-building.”29 The gap between the constitutional protections and the actions of those in power is disastrous; in Cape Town, there are as many as 10 cases of “corrective rape” a week against those who identify as queer, lesbian, or transgender. Due to a lack of resources allocated to combat this and a lack of cooperation from police, there are few to no convictions in these cases.30
Muholi, through what they term “visual activism,” uses their photography to make the invisible visible, forcing society to address this discrimination. In Muholi’s work, Faces and Phases a collection of stunning black and white portraits of lesbians and transgendered people from different cities and townships in her home country of South Africa, in addition to a few portraits of people in Toronto, Canada, looks the audience in the eye. It is impossible to ignore their penetrating looks. Each portrait is a window into a beautiful person, up to and including a person wearing a Catholic priest’s collar.31
Muholi, through their portraits, invites the viewer to see that the LGBTQIA+ community are everyday people trying to live their lives just as CIS-gendered heterosexuals are. The simplicity of this invites the audience to change their mindsets. This, in and of itself, is the power of their photography.
Students will examine Muholi’s portraits in the station rotation activity.
Nalini Malani is an Indian artist who is part of the SAHMAT collective based out of New Delhi, India. The collective was founded after the brutal murder of writer and street performer, Safdar Hashmi, on New Year’s Day of 1989 during a theater performance. The collective focuses on work with social and political messages both in the form of high culture and street art.32
Nalini Malani’s art is heavily influenced by her experience as a refugee following the partitioning of India into India and Pakistan. Her family was forced to flee their home state of Sindh in 1947. Much of her work considers the impacts of violence against women on Indian society. She pushes against traditional religious and nationalist leanings in favor of internationalist and urban ideals.33
Her new media installation commissioned by the Whitechapel, “Can You Hear Me?,” makes an animated notebook of her feelings following the violent rape of an eight-year-old child in the war-torn state of Kashmir. Malani notes that this is yet another example of nations being created on the bodies of females, just as the partitioning of India was marked by a period of mass rape of women. Later in September of the same year, a nineteen-year-old girl from the lowest caste who was cutting grass for her animals was strangled and gang raped, and her rapists cut her tongue out. Malani argues that this disregard for the lowest caste citizens is a relic of the post-colonial racism that resonates through the present and is part of a discussion that is long overdue. She wants her art to help her audience consider how we move forward to correct these situations and protect the marginalized.34
Students will watch a video of her installation, “Can You Hear Me?,” as part of their station rotation.
Fabrice Monteiro and Doulsy: “The Prophecy”
Fabrice Monteiro is a biracial multicultural photographer living in Dakar, Senegal. His father is from Benin and his mother is from Belgium. He grew up in Benin and then worked as a fashion model around the world before settling in Senegal. He was immediately struck by how polluted Dakar was, having been away from the African continent for some time.
Doulsy is a Dakar-born avant-garde and futurist costume designer. His brand, Jah Gal, is known for its unisex pieces. The name of his brand refers to the freedom found through creation and his work is usually made from discarded or recycled items to give dead things new life.35
Monteiro and Doulsy collaborated with Ecofund, a crowd-sourcing nonprofit organization that publishes environmentally-oriented projects for the public to fund, to create “The Prophecy.” “The Prophecy” draws on the ancient African spiritual beliefs of animism, that all things on earth have a spirit and are connected, to bring awareness to the environmental destruction in Senegal.36,37 Monteiro conceived of the ideas, while Doulsy created the fashion around them. Each model in the shoots represents a jinn, a spirit that can help humankind through fortune-telling but can also lead humans astray through temptation.38 Monteiro’s and Doulsy’s jinn portray both of these aspects by showing them in increasingly disturbing settings. For example, in one image, the jinn is a statuesque tree holding beautiful large green leaves but is surrounded by small fires everywhere.39 Smoke envelops her in the dry landscape that could represent anywhere in Senegal’s semi-desert northern region known as the Fouta.
It is a clear commentary on rampant deforestation in the Fouta to make cooking fires. Women get up early in the morning to trek further and further out to find the increasingly sparse wood. The result of this deforestation has been an increase in erosion and a change in the local micro-climate. This exacerbates the effects of climate change by intensifying droughts. By killing the trees to survive, Monteiro and Doulsy show us that we are killing ourselves.
This devastation is echoed in another piece in the series where we see a jinn clad in what looks like the makings of a hut. Mud, red earth, hay, and logs make up her full domed skirt. She is surrounded by dust, and in the background are leafless iconic African trees.40 The Harmattan winds are a regular feature of northern Senegal blowing sand and dust everywhere. With greater deforestation to cook and build homes, there is greater erosion, intensifying the load of the winds and making the land less habitable.
In another image, Monteiro and Dousy tackle the proliferation of plastic in Senegal and the resultant pollution. Just as in many countries, Senegalese people have moved toward a more disposable consumer culture. As a result, they now have to contend with trash that they didn’t have to before. In this image, the jinn stands on a hill covered in garbage at sunset clad in a dress quilted together with many different types of everyday plastics. Her head is adorned with a headdress with red cords that is reminiscent of flames flickering in the wind as she burns garbage.41 This is a common practice at sunset to dispose of the waste. Burning plastics, however, means releasing numerous chemical pollutants into the air as well as particulate pollutants.
Monteiro’s images are thoroughly captivating and thought-provoking, and like Nick Cave’s soundsuits, bring art and fashion together in an entirely new way. Students will enjoy these images speaking to our need to be better stewards of the environment. These will be the final works in the station rotation activity.
Ai Weiwei is a Chinese artist who is currently a refugee in the United Kingdom because of his irreverent criticism of the Chinese Communist Party. In 2008, a major earthquake in the Sichuan province of China led to massive casualties, among them were thousands of school children. The Chinese government would not release statistics about how many children had died when their shoddily-made government schools came crumbling down on them, so Weiwei set out to learn more. He amassed a team of over 100 citizens to interview the families of survivors over the course of a year. His team was constantly threatened, attacked, and disappearing, yet more people signed on. Weiwei kept a blog of their findings to not only count the number of dead but to give them names. After a year, he and his team had 5,219 names and the Chinese government shut down his blog.42
“Remembering” is an art installation that both serves as a memorial to the children and an act of rebellion against the Chinese government. For the installation, Weiwei painted 9,000 backpacks in colors inspired by the Toys R Us logo (red, blue, green, and yellow). The backpacks spell out a quote in Chinese from the mother of a seven-year-old victim, “All I want is
to let the world remember she had been living happily for seven years.” To drive his point of rebellion home more, he placed the installation on the Haus de Kunst museum façade in Munich, Germany. This building was originally erected for Adolph Hitler, who fancied himself an artist and considered all art that was not surrealist to be degenerate. Visitors to the museum had to walk through a door in the middle of the installation and indeed become part of the memorial for a moment.43 Soon after this act of rebellion, Weiwei was arrested by the Chinese government and imprisoned. Yet, he still considers this a high point. He says that authoritarian regimes must crumble when confronted with the truth.44
We’ll explore the piece itself and his writing about the work and what happened to him as a result of it. At this point, students will write about whether they feel the cost of speaking up outweighs the cost of silence, followed by a class discussion. This piece will be the last piece of preparation for us to move into the final phase of the unit: the advocacy project.
Project Zero Thinking Routines
Project Zero, a research center at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has published several thinking routines, which are scaffolds for students to understand how to critique or analyze a given piece.45 They have created some thinking routines which are specifically for use with art or objects. Two of these routines will be particularly useful for students in this unit: See, Think, Wonder and Values, Identities, and Actions.
See, Think, Wonder
For this thinking routine, students are simply invited to start by observing a work and jotting down as many things they can see as possible. It’s important at this stage to emphasize that they are to make superficial observations, not inferences. I find it helpful in my classroom to give students a graphic organizer with the image under study at the top and a chart with three vertical columns beneath it – each column is labeled for one part of the thinking routine. In silence, students record as many observations as they can, though I usually require a minimum of 10.
Next, in the “think” column, students must consider each of the things they wrote in the “see” column. What inferences can they make about the purpose or meaning of what they noted? For example, if they noticed the focus of the eyes in an image, what might it imply? What might a certain color scheme be telling us? What might a particular symbol mean?
After students have finished the “think” column, it is time for them to make suppositions. In the “wonder” column, they are tasked with asking questions about what they’ve observed. For example, what was the artist thinking when they composed this piece? Why did the artist choose this subject? How did audiences react to this piece? Students usually have several interesting questions to ask that far exceed the capabilities of educators to predict!
After students have had time to independently consider their observations, inferences, and suppositions, it is time to come together as a whole class to share out. When used repeatedly, this routine becomes second nature to students and becomes a permanent tool in their intellectual toolbox to use when observing an object or work of art.
Values, Identities, and Actions
Since this unit is considering art as advocacy, the Values, Identities, and Actions thinking routine is particularly apt. Project Zero recommends that the artwork that one chooses to use with this piece should either have a clear civic message or be able to connect to civics.46
For the first category, values, the routine asks us to consider the values the work asks us to think about, i.e. fairness, justice, safety, traditions, a specific group of people, etc. This gives the thinker the ability to ground themself in the moment or social movement in question. Next, the routine asks us to consider identities: Who is this work speaking about? And who is this work speaking to? If we want to probe deeper, we can consider one’s place in the piece. Is anyone left out? Do you fit into the story? Why? Finally, the routine pushes the thinker to consider actions. What actions might this piece encourage? Since we are looking at artwork with strong messages, this should allow students to distill the messages from the pieces.47
This thinking routine will be invaluable for interpreting art with a social message. It can also be turned on its head to become a graphic organizer for brainstorming the kind of art they would like to create for their artist’s collectives. Students can think about what values they want to speak to, who their target audience is and whether they want to be more inclusive or exclusive, and finally, what actions they want to inspire their target audience to take.
PACT Plus is a method developed through a collaboration between the University of Texas, the University of Maryland, and the U.S. Department of Education to improve reading skills through a research-based approach. The acronym PACT stands for Promoting Adolescents’ Comprehension of Texts. The approach is three-fold, but its cornerstone is partner reading. The researchers argue that adolescents learn best from each other, yet in most middle schools, teachers do more talking than students. Therefore, this strategy focuses on increasing student voice and time with their peers. In partner readings, students are thoughtfully paired by reading level and social considerations. Each pair is given a text which is chunked into one to three paragraphs. At the end of each chunk is a “critical question” that usually requires the students to go back into the text and annotate for something specific. The question is followed by a higher-order thinking question that requires students to make inferences. This process repeats throughout the rest of the text. At the end of the text, students tackle a “culminating question,” which forces them to consider the text as a whole. The skillful teacher will ensure that the questions are backward planned so that they serve as scaffolds toward the culminating question. Additionally, teachers can differentiate the questions for higher or lower readers – providing a series of progressively more challenging questions to lower readers and providing more abstract questions to higher readers.
The partner reading then proceeds as follows: one partner is Partner A and the other partner is Partner B. For the first chunk of text, Partner A reads aloud while Partner B listens. After reading, the students discuss the critical questions and complete the annotations together. The focus for the critical questions should be on annotating and speaking and quick jots. Next, Partner B reads the second section aloud while Partner A listens. Students then tackle the critical question(s). This cycle repeats through the culminating question.
The culminating question serves as a good exit ticket or as an opportunity for a written analytical response. While students are working as partners, the teacher should be circulating the room and listening in. The guided annotations serve as useful formative assessments for teachers to keep an eye on. Redirections should take no more than 30 seconds to allow students to own the learning. After the specified time for the reading elapses, the teacher should call the class back together and have student pairs share out their findings. It’s important to spend a little time discussing the culminating question before giving students time to add to their original responses.
Given the number of essays and informational tasks we will be tackling in this unit, we will be using this strategy often. Most notably, we will use the partner reading strategy to interpret Audre Lorde’s essay and the AfriCOBRA manifesto. This technique allows us to admire the author’s craft in addition to making inferences regarding how and why the authors made the choices they did. These annotated texts will serve as a model for students as they write their manifestos for their artist collectives in preparation for making art for the final exhibition.
Day 1: Jonathan Harris’ Poster and Partner Reading of Audre Lorde’s “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action”
- Jonathan Harris’ “Critical Race Theory” projected on the smartboard or via the LCD projector
- Handouts of a scaled-down version of “Critical Race Theory” with a three-column “See, Think, Wonder” chart
- Handout of Lorde’s “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” with embedded critical questions and a culminating question
This lesson begins with students walking in after greeting the teacher to pick up a do now that is a “See, Think, Wonder” of Jonathan Harris’ 2021 poster “Critical Race Theory.” Students will work in silence for five minutes while independently observing the artwork and identifying what they (see), making inferences about what they see (think), and asking questions or making suppositions based on their observations and inferences (wonder). Students will see the artwork projected in color as well to better help them with their observations. The teacher then facilitates a whole class share out with students asking them first to share their observations. If projecting using an LCD projector, a neat trick to “zoom in” on a piece of the painting is to hold a blank piece of copy paper about a foot in front of the projection screen. On the paper, your students can see an enlarged version of the section of focus. Take note of their observations either on the whiteboard or on a do now that you can later project using a document camera. Next, facilitate a discussion of their inferences based on these observations and finally their questions. This is a good place to tell them that the piece was created as a poster in 2021 and if they didn’t already comment on the title, ask them to make inferences about the artist’s message.
The teacher should then introduce the unit and explain that students will be looking at several pieces of art that have an activist message and will eventually be creating their own for an exhibition in front of societal changemakers. Explain that the next piece may help them answer questions about why.
Distribute copies of “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” that include the embedded critical questions after every three paragraphs or so that eventually lead up to the critical question. You should make sure that some of the questions include annotations that will help students better be able to articulate their ideas about the culminating question. I will draw attention to the realizations that Lorde made as a result of her near-death experience and to her reasoning for why silence or inaction is more deleterious to marginalized groups than speaking out. This is one of the major questions we will be grappling with in the unit. Set a time limit for students to read the piece and complete the questions and start a timer. The suggested time for this activity is 20-25 minutes.
While students are completing the partner reading, the teacher should circulate the room, listening in on discussions and asking follow-up questions to students who are struggling and to students who seem to be speeding ahead. If you are teaching very low readers in combination with grade level and very high readers, it’s best to embed a few extra questions in the handout for those readers to help scaffold the reading.
After students have finished, explain that students will be participating in a Paideia seminar about both the reading and the text. Tell them to try to generate two to three questions of their own about the text that they would like to ask their peers in the seminar. The questions should be “how” and “why” types of questions instead of simple closed-ended questions.
Day 2: Paideia Seminar
- A handout of Jonathan Harris’ “Critical Race Theory” with a three-column chart labeled with “Values, Identities, and Actions” including clarifying questions/descriptors of what is required for each
- Smartboard or LCD projection of “Critical Race Theory”
- Handouts of accountable talk question stems
- A Paideia seminar rubric scoring students on the number of times they spoke using PROS (Pause, rephrase a previous speaker’s ideas, offer your opinion, and support it with evidence from the text), the number of quality questions they asked, and how respectful they were of their peers
- Paideia tracker indicating each student’s name, the number of times they spoke using PROS, the number of times they asked questions to their peers, and the number of times they were off-task
- A Paideia seminar self-reflection sheet that includes a personal goal, a class goal, space for tallying a partner’s PROS goals and their own, and reflection questions on the back asking about what went well, what could have gone better, what the most interesting point made in the seminar was, and space to write about their new answer to the culminating question from the Audre Lorde essay from the day before
- A list of 3-4 questions high-level questions that the teacher may ask the class in the Paideia
Students come in and pick up a do now with Jonathan Harris’ “Critical Race Theory” and proceed to complete the “Values, Identities, and Actions” chart independently. The teacher should circulate while they work through this, nudging them as they need to to help them gain confidence in the exercise.
After students have finished the do now, instruct them to pull out their annotated versions of Audre Lorde’s essay, their do now from today, their Paideia rubrics, and their accountable talk stems (have backup copies on hand for our forgetful students whose papers have been stolen by Martians). Make sure, also, to have the acronym PROS written out on the board along with descriptions of what each of the letters stands for. Explain that your role in the seminar is that of a facilitator only. Students are in charge of the discussion and there will be no hand raising or calling on students. Instead, students should speak when they have an idea. Set a class seminar goal for each student to speak three times using PROS. Have students think about whether they are a talker or if they are more introverted. Stress that in a discussion such as this, ideas are so important, so we shouldn’t be silencing ourselves or others. Therefore, tell students that if they know they are talkers, they should wait until at least 3-4 quieter people have spoken before entering the conversation. Once they have spoken once, they should wait for others to chime in.
The teacher should also go over the accountable talk stems. These show us how to ask clarifying questions if we misunderstood an argument from a speaker or if we want to get a deeper understanding of the point they are making. They also show us how to add on to what someone else has said or how to respectfully disagree.
Finally, explain that you will begin the seminar by asking a question. Students should answer that question and build off others’ answers to the question, but they should also, in the course of the seminar where it feels natural, ask some of their self-generated questions. Tell them that they will earn points on the rubric for asking and answering questions thoughtfully.
In a class greater than 20 students, is best to split the class into two groups. Choose a mixture of introverted and extroverted students to be in each group and ensure that you have a mix of students who do the work regularly and those who don’t to allow for the best discussion possible. Pair students on the outside circle (the non-speakers) with those on the inside circle (the speakers). The ones on the outside should be tracking their partner on the inside and encouraging them with thumbs-ups sometimes or with their eyes to get them to speak. If students have never done a Paideia seminar before, it’s fun to pause the discussion halfway through and then have the “coaches” talk to the “players.” It builds a more engaging atmosphere and students feel bolstered by their peers.
Work through the seminar. The teacher should use their tracker to follow the conversation to later score the students. Only ask your questions when answers get redundant or there is a long lull in the conversation. Pause from time to time to note who still needs to speak and to let students know how much time is left. When the first seminar’s time is up, swap seminars and start the process again. Finally, congratulate students on a job well done and have them begin their reflection sheet. If time is up, then have students complete the reflection for homework.
Day 6: Station Activity with Current Artists
- Do now with a piece of artwork and a short excerpt about the artist or social movement and a three-column “Values, Identities, and Actions” chart
- Uploaded copies of videos and artwork for Nick Cave, Zanele Muholi, Nalini Malani, Fabrice Monteiro and Doulsy, and Clothilde Jiménez
- Supporting audio files and videos for Nick Cave and Nalini Malani
- Excerpt of interview with Fabrice Monteiro
- Excerpt of article about Zanele Muholi
- Biography of Clothilde Jiménez
- Student handout divided into sections for each artist with indications about what to read/look at in what order at each station, plus charts for “Values, Identities, and Actions” for each
For this lesson, the teacher should start with a do now with a piece of artwork from “The Prophecy” or one from an artist that you won’t be discussing. You can project this on the board and include a little background information on a handout for them as well as a “Values, Identities, and Actions” chart.
After students finish the do now, they will share out their findings for up to 5 minutes. The teacher should then introduce the station activity. If class periods are shorter in the school, this activity may take two class periods. If class periods are longer, it will take the full period. The teacher should pre-position materials at table groupings of no more than 4-5 students. For larger classes, simply double the stations – meaning, have two stations for each artist and divide the class in half (Group A and Group B) and then into fifths in each half. Group A should only rotate between the stations on their side of the room and Group B should only rotate between their stations on the other side of the room.
Tell students that they will have 12 minutes at each station to look at the artwork, read the included materials, answer the questions, and fill out the charts. Remind them that they have been interpreting art for multiple lessons now and have the skills needed to grapple with it on their own. The texts, videos, and audio files will help deepen their understanding of the work. Tell them that the teacher will play music when it is time to transition and turn it off when they should be at their stations. Show them that they may not be starting with the first artist on the page, so they should make sure they see who they are working with first and start at that point on the page. Start the activity.
The teacher should circulate in the room making sure to listen in on conversations and nudge students when they are stuck. It’s helpful to start a timer to keep things on track. In addition, the music for transitions keeps students upbeat and allows for smoother transitions. If you notice that students need more time, you can make that adjustment or cut the stations short (i.e. students only have to do four stations for the class period instead of all five).
At the end of class, bring everyone together and ask about the different issues they learned about. What artists spoke to them most? What did they like about the art? What techniques might they want to try out?
Appendix on Implementing District Standards
Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts Literacy
RI.8.1 Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text. Students will be interpreting multiple texts and drawing inferences.
RI.8.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts. In Donaldson’s AfriCOBRA manifesto, students will have the opportunity to study the language and determine the meanings.
RI.8.7 Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums (e.g., print or digital text, video, multimedia) to present a particular topic or idea. Students will be comparing poetry to art and will consider articles in tandem with the artwork.
SL.8.1.A Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion. Our introductory Paideia seminar will allow students to work through this standard.
SL.8.2 Analyze the purpose of information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and evaluate the motives (e.g., social, commercial, political) behind its presentation. As students use the Values, Identities, and Actions with multiple pieces of artwork, they will be able to critically examine the purpose and motives behind them.
W.8.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content. For the culminating project, students will be researching a topic of concern to them and writing about it for both their artistic plaques to be displayed next to their artwork, but also when writing their art manifestos for their collectives.
National Core Arts Standards
VA:Pr4.1.8a. Develop and apply criteria for evaluating a collection of artwork for presentation. Students will be writing their art manifestos in preparation for creating their collection and then will evaluate the artwork to ensure it fits the criteria of the manifesto.
LO 1.2B Explain how the rhetorical features of an argument contribute to its effect and meaning. When students study the AfriCOBRA manifesto and Lorde’s piece, they will do just this.
LO 4.1A Identify a problem, idea, or central question and complete preliminary readings to determine the purpose, scope, and process of the research. When students form their collectives, write their manifestos, and create their art, they will be following the steps in this standard.
Bissonauth, Natasha. “Zanele Muholi's Affective Appeal to Act.” Photography and Culture 7, no. 3 (2014): 239–51. https://doi.org/10.2752/175145214x14153800234801. This resource gives useful background about Muholi’s photography, the struggles that members of the LBGTQIA+ community face in African countries, and ideas on how to interpret Muloli’s work. It is important for intellectual preparation before teaching her work.
Brandman, Mariana. “Audre Lorde.” National Women's History Museum. Accessed July 12, 2022. https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/audre-lorde. This is a biography of Audre Lorde examining her life and the impact of her work. It helps prepare the teacher to better understand her essay that kicks off the unit.
Can You Hear Me? YouTube. YouTube, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edNKZZLTLrw. This is a video of Nalini Malani’s new media installation, Can You Hear Me?, prepared for the White Chapel Gallery in London. It is both a teacher and a student resource as it is the only way for a non-local audience to experience the exhibition.
Donaldson, Jeff R. “AfriCOBRA Manifesto? ‘Ten in Search of a Nation.’” Nka Journal of Contemporary African Art. Duke University Press, May 1, 2012. https://read.dukeupress.edu/nka/article/2012/30/76/48891/AfriCOBRA-Manifesto-Ten-in-Search-of-a-Nation. Jeff Donaldson’s “AfriCOBRA Manifesto” both serves as a jumping off point for understanding the art the collective produced and as a model for what an art manifesto is. This will serve both the teacher and the students in being able to dissect the pieces of a manifesto and understand how all of the AfriCOBRA artists’ art is connected.
Doulsy. “About.” Jah Gal. Tumblr. Accessed July 17, 2022. https://jah-gal.tumblr.com/about. This is important intellectual preparation for the teacher to understand Doulsy, the avant-garde fashion designer who collaborated with Fabrice Monteiro on “The Prophecy.” Modern artists don’t have volumes written about them, but we can see what they have to say on their social media and in their online autobiographies.
Gottfriedson, Garry. “And Just Like That.” Poem. In Clinging to Bone, 26. Vancouver, B.C, Canada: Ronsdale, 2019. This will be a resource for students that will be paired with Geralyn Montano’s artwork. It discusses the trials that indigenous peoples have faced in North America, including the burden on women.
Eastburn, Meredith. “To Be Free - Art of SSCAC.” Art of SSCAC, April 9, 2009.
https://sites.google.com/site/interpretationtest/Home/to-be-free/to-be-free. This is a
thoughtful interpretation of Barbara Jones-Hogu’s “To Be Free” and is useful intellectual
preparation for teachers before teaching this work.
Harris, Jonathan. “Critical Race Theory Online Limited Edition Print.” Jonathan Harris Art, 2021. Accessed July 12, 2022. https://jonathanharrisart.bigcartel.com/product/critical-race-theory-online-limited-edition-print. This is Harris’ actual piece of art that will be paired with Audre Lorde’s essay to kick off the unit. It can be found elsewhere, but this is the artist’s website.
I Am Somebody Jesse Jackson. YouTube. YouTube, 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tu0lNcrZjG8. In 1972, Jesse Jackson recited “I am Somebody” originally penned by Reverend William Holmes Borders, Sr. This video is the clearest version of the poem for students to understand. It will be paired with Gerald Williams’ poster by the same name during the study of AfriCOBRA.
Jarrell, Wadsworth. “Three Queens.” Acrylic on Canvas. Detroit Institute of the Arts, 1971.
Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, MI. https://www.dia.org/art/collection/object/three-queens-107063. This is Jarrell’s poster that we will study as part of the AfriCOBRA collective.
Jiménez, Clotilde. “Fruity Boys, 2016.” Clotilde Jiménez. Accessed April 30, 2022. http://www.clotildejimenez.art/artworks/categories/8/9437-fruity-boys-2016/. This is Jiménez’s collage that students will be able to access online and on paper while doing their stations around current activist artists.
Lorde, Audre. “The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action.” Essay. In Sister Outsider, 28–32. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2020. This is Lorde’s essay that will kick off the unit. I will introduce this first as a partner reading and then have a Paideia seminar on this and Harris’ poster.
Malani, Nalini. “Nalini Malani Biography.” Nalini Malani. Accessed July 14, 2022. https://www.nalinimalani.com/bio.htm. This is simply a biography of Indian artist, Nalini Malani. It helps to understand her place in the SAHMAT collective and the inspiration for her work.
Montano, Geralyn. “Bio.” Geralyn Montano. Weebly. Accessed May 1, 2022. https://www.geralynmontano.com/bio.html. This is a biography of Geralyn Montano, which is useful when introducing her multimedia art, “Sundance in Red.” It gives the teacher an understanding of her cultural background and areas of interest, which helps when encouraging students to interpret the piece.
Montano, Geri. “Sundance in Red.” San Francisco: Mission Artists, 2011. Project Artaud. San Francisco. https://www.missionartists.org/art_pieces/5774?_ga=2.182389031.1006518194.1651415638-1014067173.1651415638. This collage will be part of the station activity where students will study current activist artists. I will pair it with Gottfriedson’s poem, “Just Like That.”
Muholi, Zanele. Faces and Phases. Munich: Prestel, 2010. This book includes Muholi’s portraits that we will study during the station activity.
Nasir, Khairulnazrin, Ishak ISuliaman, and Abur Hamdi Usman. “The Notion of Animism: Some Views from Prophetic Tradition and Western Anthropologist Perspectives.” Humanities & Social Sciences Reviews 7, no. 4 (2019): 348–58. https://doi.org/10.18510/hssr.2019.7445. This is important intellectual preparation for understanding the work of Fabrice Monteiro and Doulsy. I needed to read it to understand what the jinn represents in animism to then interpret “The Prophecy.”
Niedan, Christian. “The Photographic Confrontations of Fabrice Monteiro: An Interview.” The Mantle. Webdrips. Accessed July 17, 2022. https://www.themantle.com/arts-and-culture/photographic-confrontations-fabrice-monteiro-interview. This was an interview with Fabrice Monteiro which discusses his background and his artistic vision for “The Prophecy.” It’s helpful intellectual preparation for the teacher and can be used for students with the station activity.
Project Zero. “Values, Identities, Actions.” Project Zero. Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2019. http://www.pz.harvard.edu/resources/values-identities-actions. This resource was mentioned in the teaching strategies portion of the unit. It’s a full description of the strategy and includes ideas on how to use it.
Project Zero's Thinking Routine Toolbox.” PZ's Thinking Routines Toolbox | Project Zero. Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2022. http://www.pz.harvard.edu/thinking-routines#WithArtOrObjects. This is the index of all of the potential teaching strategies a teacher could use and includes information about the objectives of Project Zero.
Publicdelivery. “Nick Cave's Soundsuit Sculptures - Everything You Need to Know.” Public Delivery, November 6, 2021. https://publicdelivery.org/nick-cave-soundsuits/. This article gives a lot of excellent information about Nick Cave and his soundsuits from their origins to his grander vision.
Punwani, Perrine. Geralyn Montano's Explanation of "Sundance in Red". Personal, July 15, 2022. I emailed Geralyn Montano to ensure that I was interpreting her multimedia piece correctly. She filled in more information for me and gave me a higher-resolution image of the piece.
Stern, Julia. “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women: The Colonizing Nature of Law.” Immigration and Human Rights Law Review (blog), October 13, 2021. https://lawblogs.uc.edu/ihrlr/2021/10/13/missing-and-murdered-indigenous-women-the-colonizing-nature-of-law/#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20FBI%2C%2040,youth%20vulnerable%20to%20sex%20trafficking. After learning about the meaning of “Sundance in Red,” I searched for more information about trafficking from reservations. This gives a great deal of information and excerpts of it could be used in the station activity with students to help them interpret her piece.
“The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India since 1989 | Smart Museum of Art.” Smart Museum of Art. Accessed May 1, 2022. https://smartmuseum.uchicago.edu/exhibitions/the-sahmat-collective-art-and-activism-in-india-since-1989/. When researching artists around the world, I found the SAHMAT collective and then Nalini Malani. I thought it was helpful intellectual preparation to see how different art collectives came together and their various missions since students are going to be writing their manifestos and creating their collectives.
Togba, Edna M. “Barbara Jones Hogu in Conversation with Edna Togba.” Nka Journal of
Contemporary African Art 2012, no. 30 (2012): 138–44. https://doi.org/10.1215/10757163-1496552. This interview is both an excellent piece of intellectual preparation for the teacher, but also a good piece for partner reading with students when studying the AfriCOBRA collective. It discusses Barbara Jones-Hogu’s work, but also the origins of AfriCOBRA’s principles.
“The Sun Dance – WIWÁŊYAŊG WAČÍPI.” Aktá Lakota Museum & Cultural Center, May 3, 2022. https://aktalakota.stjo.org/seven-sacred-rites/wiwanyang-wachipi-sun-dance/. This is an explanation of the Lakota tradition of the Sun Dance, which Geralyn Montano directly alludes to in her piece of art. This piece can be used both for the teacher’s intellectual preparation before teaching “Sundance in Red” and in the stations for students.
Weiwei, Ai. “Ai Weiwei: The Artwork That Made Me the Most Dangerous Person in China.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, February 15, 2018. This is an article authored by Ai Weiwei discussing his choice to follow through on his piece “Remembering.” There are photographs of the installation in the article as well. This piece will be used as a partner reading for students in preparation for a debate about whether the risks of standing up to injustice are worth taking.
Williams, Gerald. “I Am Somebody.” Acrylic on canvas. Https://Kavigupta.com/Artists/34-Gerald-Williams/Works/6180-Gerald-Williams-i-Am-Somebody-1969/, 1969. Kavi Gupta gallery. This is the image of Williams’ piece that will be projected in class for students to study in tandem with the video of Jesse Jackson reciting the poem of the same name.
Student Reading List
Can You Hear Me? YouTube. YouTube, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edNKZZLTLrw. This is a video of Nalini Malani’s new media installation, Can You Hear Me?, prepared for the White Chapel Gallery in London. It is the only way for a non-local audience to experience the exhibition.
Donaldson, Jeff R. “AfriCOBRA Manifesto? ‘Ten in Search of a Nation.’” Nka Journal of
Contemporary African Art. Duke University Press, May 1, 2012. https://read.dukeupress.edu/nka/article/2012/30/76/48891/AfriCOBRA-Manifesto-Ten-in-Search-of-a-Nation. Jeff Donaldson’s “AfriCOBRA Manifesto” both serves as a jumping off point for understanding the art the collective produced and as a model for what an art manifesto is. Students will complete this as a partner reading and then come back to it throughout the unit to dissect the pieces of a manifesto and understand how all of the AfriCOBRA artists’ art is connected.
Gottfriedson, Garry. “And Just Like That.” Poem. In Clinging to Bone, 26. Vancouver, B.C, Canada : Ronsdale, 2019. This will be a resource for students that will be paired with Geralyn Montano’s artwork. It discusses the trials that indigenous peoples have faced in North America, including the burden on women.
Lorde, Audre. “The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action.” Essay. In Sister
Outsider, 28–32. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2020. This is Lorde’s essay that will kick off the unit. I will introduce this first as a partner reading and then have a Paideia seminar on this and Harris’ poster.
Niedan, Christian. “The Photographic Confrontations of Fabrice Monteiro: An Interview.” The Mantle. Webdrips. Accessed July 17, 2022. https://www.themantle.com/arts-and-culture/photographic-confrontations-fabrice-monteiro-interview. This was an interview with Fabrice Monteiro which discusses his background and his artistic vision for “The Prophecy.” It will sit next to his 3 photographs during the station activity.
Stern, Julia. “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women: The Colonizing Nature of Law.” Immigration and Human Rights Law Review (blog), October 13, 2021. https://lawblogs.uc.edu/ihrlr/2021/10/13/missing-and-murdered-indigenous-women-the-colonizing-nature-of-law/#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20FBI%2C%2040,youth%20vulnerable%20to%20sex%20trafficking. Students will read excerpts of this piece to contextualize and interpret “Sundance in Red.”
Togba, Edna M. “Barbara Jones Hogu in Conversation with Edna Togba.” Nka Journal of
Contemporary African Art 2012, no. 30 (2012): 138–44. https://doi.org/10.1215/10757163-1496552. This will be used as a partner reading with students when studying the AfriCOBRA collective. It discusses Barbara Jones-Hogu’s work, but also the origins of AfriCOBRA’s principles, which will be helpful during the project phase.
“The Sun Dance – WIWÁŊYAŊG WAČÍPI.” Aktá Lakota Museum & Cultural Center, May 3, 2022. https://aktalakota.stjo.org/seven-sacred-rites/wiwanyang-wachipi-sun-dance/. This is an explanation of the Lakota tradition of the Sun Dance, which Geralyn Montano directly alludes to in her piece of art. Students will read this during the station activity.
Weiwei, Ai. “Ai Weiwei: The Artwork That Made Me the Most Dangerous Person in China.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, February 15, 2018. This is an article authored by Ai Weiwei discussing his choice to follow through on his piece “Remembering.” There are photographs of the installation in the article as well. This piece will be used as a partner reading for students in preparation for a debate about whether the risks of standing up to injustice are worth taking.
1 M. Brandman, “Audre Lorde,” https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/audre-lorde (accessed July 12, 2022).
2 A. Lorde, “The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action,” in Sister Outsider, 28-32.
3 A. Lorde, “The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action,” in Sister Outsider, 28-32.
4 J. Harris, “Critical Race Theory Online Limited Edition Print,” https://jonathanharrisart.bigcartel.com/product/critical-race-theory-online-limited-edition-print, 2021 (accessed July 12, 2022).
5 J.R. Donaldson, “Africobra Manifesto? ‘Ten in Search of a Nation,’ ” in Nka Journal of Contemporary African Art.
6 J.R. Donaldson, “Africobra Manifesto? ‘Ten in Search of a Nation.”
7 J.R. Donaldson. “Africobra Manifesto? ‘Ten in Search of a Nation.”
8 E.M. Togba, “Barbara Jones Hogu in Conversation with Edna Togba,” in Nka Journal of Contemporary African Art.
9 B. Jones-Hogu, “To Be Free - Art of SSCAC,” Art of SSCAC, last modified April 9, 2009. https://sites.google.com/site/interpretationtest/Home/to-be-free/to-be-free (accessed July 14, 2022).
10 B. Jones-Hogu, “To Be Free - Art of SSCAC.”
11 W. Jarrell, “Three Queens.” Acrylic on Canvas. Detroit Institute of the Arts, 1971.
12 G. Williams, “I Am Somebody.” Acrylic on canvas. https://kavigupta.com/exhibitions/421-africobra-i-am-somebody-the-peninsula/, 1969. Kavi Gupta gallery.
13 G. Williams, “I Am Somebody.”
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