(Franz Masereel’s woodcut for the first edition of Pigments #1953514; Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library)
In the article “Cultural Identity” and Diaspora, Stuart Hall discusses what he calls be the “third Cinema.” This new form of cinema embodies the visual representation and cultural practices of the Afro-Caribbean subjects -“blacks” of diasporas of the west – the new post-colonial subjects. The “black” subject is essentially at the center of this visual representations. For Hall the place of the “black subject” calls in to question “the issue of cultural identity.” Through this analysis he offers us a discourse in identity, cultural practices and cultural production. He asks, “Who is this emergent, new subject of the cinema? From where does he/she speak?’
Additionally, Hall embraces and analysis of identity by offering us two areas of reflection, first “identity as a collective, shared history among people affiliated by race or ethnicity that is considered to fixed or stable.” Second he proposes that, “identity is understood as unstable, metaphoric, and even contradictory.” According to the former definition cultural identity represents a “oneness” that is born from our common historical experiences and shared cultural codes. this framework provides for a stable point of reference and meaning against the shifting divisions of our history, while creating for Caribbeans’ the Caribbeaness of the “black” experience.
Hall points out that this understanding of identity played an important role in the birth of the “Negritude” movement. Which according to the website African Age: African and African Diasporan Transformation in the 20th Century, a Project of the Schomburg-Mellon Humanities Summer Institute, the Negritude movement is a literary and political movement which started in Paris 1930s by a group of French speaking students from French-colonies in the Caribbean and Africa. Its founding members, Aime Cesairer, Leopold Senghor, and Leon Damas hoped to fuel discourses around race identity, hegemony and dominance. This movement “signaled an awakening of race consciousness for blacks in Africa and the African Diaspora. This new race consciousness, rooted in a (re)discovery of the authentic self, sparked a collective condemnation of Western domination, anti-black racism, enslavement, and colonization of black people.
In reading about the Negritude movement in Halls piece I became interested in finding visual representations of the commonality that these activist/artists sought through their engagements with a Afro-Carribbean diaspora. Through my random Google searches I stumbled upon a woodcut (pictured above) by Franz Masereel a Flemish artist who “depicts a black man in a city bursting forth from a tuxedo, a symbol of the constraining pomp and elitism of Western culture. His nakedness, the palm trees, and the black figures are meant to represent the essence of blackness, or Négritude. They can also be seen as reinforcing the stereotype of primitivism associated with Africans.” The piece original appeared in the first edition of the text “Pigments” (1937) by Leon Damas one of the founding fathers of the Negritude Movement.
Thanks for the really helpful background information on the Negritude movement. That was a bunch of information I had not previously been aware of until the Hall reading, and you’ve made it a clear point here with the wonderful woodcut image representing “the essence of blackness”