African American Visual Arts (British Association for by Celeste-Marie Bernier

African American Visual Arts (British Association for by Celeste-Marie Bernier

By Celeste-Marie Bernier

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Miles’ – unexplained on the grounds that his enslaved audience would have identified with his plight. His use of rhyming in ‘Miles’ and ‘biles’ questions the slave-owner’s authority by associating him with the domestic chores undertaken by slaves on the plantation. Furthermore, the phonetic spelling of ‘wher’ and ‘biles’ highlights his use of an African American spoken vernacular to demonstrate the richness of a distinct oral tradition. Ultimately, Dave experimented with literary language on his pots to resist his chattel status.

Any research into African American artists living and working before 1900 proves that these years were far from ‘wasted’. On the contrary, evidence suggests that vast numbers of enslaved Africans became experts in countless professions following their arrival into the Americas and enforced deportation from diverse tribal groups and regions. Enslaved and free women, men and children drew on knowledge gained in Africa and the Americas to become quilters; dressmakers; potters; sculptors; daguerreotypists; printers and engravers; portrait, landscape and religious painters; ironworkers; carpenters; blacksmiths; silversmiths; musicians and much more.

58). These archaeological treasure troves validate James Porter’s claim that the ‘creative “folk culture” of the Afro-American began in this country much earlier than many would surmise’ (Porter, 1967: 7). ). Thompson’s research goes even further by tracing call and response patterns of exchange within a Diasporic African Atlantic tradition. In particular, he shows how the ‘rise, development, and achievement of Yoruba, Kongo, Fon, Mande, and Ejagham art and philosophy fused with new elements overseas, shaping and defining the black Atlantic visual tradition’ (Thompson, 1984: xiv).

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