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When We See Us

A Century of Black Figuration in Painting

Koyo Kouoh, Tandazani Dhlakama, Ken Bugul, Robin Coste Lewis, Bill Kouélany, Maaza Mengiste


A major new study of Black figurative art from Africa and the African diaspora, covering 100 years from the early 20th century to now

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This major new study of Black figurative art and self-representation from Africa and the African diaspora features more than 200 paintings by 161 artists. These carefully selected works explore the many ways in which artists have imagined, positioned, remembered and asserted African and diasporic experiences from the early 20th century to now. In particular, they demonstrate how painters have contributed to the ongoing discussions around pan-Africanism, civil rights, African liberation and independence, the Anti-Apartheid and Black Consciousness movements, Black Lives Matter and, more recently, Afropolitanism.

A series of thematic sections – on subjects such as sensuality, spirituality and emancipation – is interspersed with specially commissioned stories and poems by leading writers Ken Bugul, Maaza Mengiste, Bill Kouélany and Robin Coste Lewis. These percipient reflections on the Black experience work with the paintings to deepen the debate about Black subjectivity.

The book coincides with a landmark exhibition at Zeitz MOCAA (Museum of Contemporary Art Africa), Cape Town.

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'This book – aside from being a feast for the eyes – is an abundant art-historical resource, and will be a springboard for discussions around Black figuration for decades to come'
The World of Interiors

Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 28.0 x 21.0 cm

Extent: 336 pp

Illustrations: 230

Publication date: 19 January 2023

ISBN: 9780500025888

About the Author

Koyo Kouoh is Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA), Cape Town. In 2015 the New York Times called her one of Africa's pre-eminent art curators and managers. In 2020 she was awarded the Swiss Grand Award for Art / Prix Meret Oppenheim in recognition of her contribution to the understanding of contemporary art.