Featured image: Wexler Gallery at Design Miami featuring Malene Djenaba Barnett and Jomo Tariku.
At Art Basel Miami Beach / Art Week Miami, the contributions of artists and designers from all over the world provide truly worthwhile moments. If you love Black art, you can spend hours on your feet taking in countless visual, sound, entertainment and performance art treasures with abundant opportunities to interact with creatives.
The buzz and collective enthusiasm of Art Week are palpable from Wynwood’s creative nooks, where singers and dancers captivate warm audiences, to the larger, more sterile venues both within and outside the Miami Beach Convention Center.
I had impromptu conversations with several creators. Among them, the founder of AfriKin Art, Alfonso Brooks, and visual artist Tasanee Durrett discussed why creating and maintaining Black and African art spaces in the West is important. This unplanned dialogue brought to light the challenges and triumphs of fostering these spaces, emphasizing their critical role in giving underrepresented artists a voice. Durrett’s work is a must-see; with figure drawings constructed from one continuous line and careful stippling, she weaves stories that center healing, empowerment and connection between Black communities and their roots.
A panel discussion presented by Wexler Gallery at Design Miami included artist and designer Jomo Tariku and award-winning multidisciplinary artist, textile designer, community builder and founder of the Black Artists + Designers Guild (BADG) Malene Barnett. The conversation was jarring, as statistical evidence highlighted the stark lack of Black and African representation in the world of design. However, the panelists stressed that action begins with raising awareness and initiating difficult conversations about how to overcome these hurdles.
Black and African designers, artists, and curators are working tirelessly to carve out spaces for Black art and design within the broader artistic landscape. Amidst the vibrant atmosphere and spirited conversations about Black and global African art, Art Week serves as a platform for greater diversity, dialogue, celebration, and bridging of cultures.
A common theme arising from these presentations, dialogues and chance encounters is the need to continue making space and doing the work ourselves without waiting for permission from the powers that be. It’s a call to action, urging the artistic community to be proactive in creating platforms that amplify diverse voices and narratives.
Southern Guild stands proudly as a collective, drawing the world’s attention to southern Africa’s multifaceted take on design. One of its members showed me their catalog, highlighting the work they had done for a lodge in the Okavango Delta in northwestern Botswana. Small moments like these helped to personalize my experience (having spent most of my life in Botswana and South Africa) despite the flurry of activity.
The works and words of brilliant creatives and the pleasure of having opportunities to engage with people beyond the small talk and pompous laughter can heighten your Art Week experience.
Art Week is more than an event—it’s a catalyst for change. The tireless efforts of those dedicated to creating space for underrepresented voices in the art and design community are making a lasting impact. Art Week stands as a beacon of hope for a more diverse and inclusive future in the art world. The representation of Black and African stories told through art and design only can grow from here.