“The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story…” - Chimamanda Adichie
Welcome to the Image of Black website: An arts and cultural portal dedicated to providing food for thought and inspiration. This website aims to provide information about the history of African representation in Western culture – as a subject of visual inquiry, as a stereotype and as a muse. I believe that by exploring and challenging the constraints and possibilities of visual re-presentation, we can encourage a deeper understanding about the origins and nuances of our racial ideas.
More broadly, however, I hope that this site will also serve as a space for creative enquiry, intercultural dialogue and a learning exchange. So, please visit our online exhibitions, listen to some fascinating talks or just spend a few moments finding out about something new. Explore and Enjoy!
The Image of black website has been providing an online education resource on the representation of African people in art, since 2005. A version of the old site has been archived by the British Library.
The website was originally conceived as an opportunity to address the lack of information available online about the ways in which people of African decent have been portrayed in differing ways across the course of history. The story is, of course, a complex one – incorporating myths and metaphors about Africa and blackness into visual signifiers that take the form of paintings, prints, sculptures and manuscripts.
It is fair to say that most historical images of Africans created before the advent of photography in the 19th century, were produced almost exclusively by Europeans. Thus images of servants, heraldic ‘moor’s heads’, slaves, market sellers, or entertainers, offer poignant reminders of oppression and disenfranchisement. However, this is only one way to view the story.
As an academic in this field of inquiry, I believe it is also important to view the visual documentation of an African presence as critical to our understanding of history. For such images help us to recollect the fragments of a historical experience that has long been ignored and misunderstood. Let us also not forget, that for every servant or entertainer represented, there also African kings, queens, sages and saints who have similarly inspired artistic works and ideas across the ages.
It is time to face history – to interrogate our stereotypes and challenge ingrained perceptions. In doing so we might forge new paths and visions into the future.
Managing Director, The Image of Black Ltd.