Black Womanhood: Images, Icons and Ideologies of the African Body

by Barbara Thompson

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Explorations of contemporary art have focused on issues of identity and race for some time. Few, however, have sought to investigate these themes by juxtaposing historical and contemporary frameworks. Black Womanhood examines an especially charged icon–the Black female body–and contemporary artists’ interventions upon historical images of Black women as exotic Others, erotic fantasies, and supermaternal Mammies.

This book presents icons of the Black female body as seen from three separate but intersecting perspectives: the traditional African, the colonial, and the contemporary global. The display and contemplation of such iconic images addresses complex and often competing forces of self-presentation and the representation of others. Peeling back layers of social, cultural, and political realities, Black Womanhood explores how historic icons inform contemporary artistic responses to the Black female body through an examination of themes such as beauty, fertility and sexuality, maternity, and women’s roles and power in society.

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