ENGAGE Symposium brings together scholars, artists, curators, art writers and more for a dynamic day of dialogue and learning about timely issues related to art and artists of the African Diaspora.
This year’s Symposium is inspired by MoAD’s current exhibition, The New Black Vanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion and features insightful conversations with some of today’s biggest innovators in art, fashion, and photography.
Some of our guests include writer and curator of The New Black Vanguard, Antwaun Sargent; one of Senegal’s most promising fashion designers, Diarra Bousso; Parisian dancer-turned-photographer, Djeneba Aduayom; photographers Awol Erizku, Arielle Bobb Willis, Clifford Prince King, and more.
Registration, coffee and mingling
Performance by Keenan Webster - 2nd Floor Gallery
Welcome & Introduction by MoAD’s Director of Education, Demetri Broxton
Opening Keynote by Antwaun Sargent
Panelists: Diarra Bousso and Jason Rembert. Moderator: Dayonna Tucker
Lunch & Gallery Exploration
Performance by Tiffany Austin, 3rd Floor Gallery
Panelists: Awol Erizku, Djeneba Aduayom and Arielle Bobb-Willis. Moderator: Key Jo Lee
Panelists: Clifford Prince King and Adrienne Raquel. Moderator: Dr. Jacqueline Francis
After a successful career as an internationally-traveling professional dancer, Djeneba Aduayom progressed into photography and brought her love of movement and emotive performance into her imagery and subsequent directing work. Drawing inspiration from her cultural mix of French, Italian, and African heritage, her concepts and artistic expression is rooted in her personal exploration of the inner worlds that reside in her imagination. In looking within and articulating her creative ideas in a visual abstraction that beckons interpretation, she hopes her works allow the outside viewer to travel to a universe of their very own making. Aduayom is now based just outside of Los Angeles, CA.
Born and raised in South Los Angeles, jazz vocalist Tiffany Austin grew up in a house filled with music. Her parents listened to soul and pop masters like Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder, while her Louisiana Creole grandmother introduced her to jazz. Widely hailed as one of the best jazz debut albums of 2015, Tiffany Austin’s self-released Nothing But Soul made a splash, including sterling reviews in Downbeat and on NPR’s “Fresh Air.” Her eagerly awaited follow-up, Unbroken, confirms the Bay Area vocalist’s status as one of jazz’s elite singers and a formidable songwriter as well.
Born and raised in New York City and Suffern, NY, with pit stops in South Carolina and New Orleans, photographer Arielle Bobb-Willis has been using the camera for nearly a decade as a tool of empowerment. Battling depression from an early age, Bobb-Willis found solace behind the lens and has developed a visual language that speaks to the complexities of life: the beautiful, the strange, belonging, isolation, and connection. Toting the line between fashion and contemporary art, her use of bright vivid colors is therapeutic and speaks to a desire to claim power and joy in moments of sadness, confusion or confinement. Bobb-Willis travels throughout the US and abroad as a way of finding ‘home’ in any grassy knoll, or city sidewalk, reminding us to stay connected and grounded during life’s transitional moments. Arielle is currently based in Los Angeles.
Diarra Bousso is a Fashion Innovator and Social Entrepreneur. Born and raised in Senegal, Diarra moved to Norway at 16 years old to attend the United World College and later went to college in Macalester where she graduated in Mathematics, Economics and Statistics. Diarra spent two years on Wall Street as a trader on the Structured Products Desk but resigned in January 2013 to follow her true passions: Fashion, Development and Africa. She founded Dakar Boutique Group, a luxury holding company based in Dakar that specializes in the manufacturing and retail of her three brands: DIARRABLU, Diarra Bousso and MINT. Today, her work has been presented in major publications including Vogue, Glamour, The New York Times and the Huffington Post among others and her designs are carried by celebrities such as Akon and first ladies around the world. Diarra is proud to represent Senegal in MARITAGE International, a new partnership with the United Nations to spur development and empower women and children through fashion and arts.
Los Angeles-based artist Awol Erizku’s multi-disciplinary practice encompasses photography, sculpture, painting, installation, film, and sound to shape an artistic language that exists at the intersection of image making and language. Bridging the visual and cultural gap between African and Black American cultures, Erizku’s work rejects Eurocentric notions of art and beauty in favor of building his singular Afrocentric aesthetic, something he refers to as “Afro-esotericism.” Rather than convey any singular entity or narrative, he explores the intersections of ancient mythology, diasporic tradition, and contemporary culture through his symbolic constellation of images spanning a breadth of media. A canny synthesizer of symbols from popular culture and the tropes of art history, Erizku references disparate signifiers to inform his political, intellectual, and formal inquiries. Renaissance portraiture, Dutch still life painting, and the contemporary art canon all inform his visual vocabulary. Similarly, Erizku draws from multiple historic and aesthetic sources, including African art, assemblage, realism, conceptual art, and performance, and often incorporates hip-hop and Trap vernaculars as a springboard for making new connections and meanings. Taking a holistic approach to object and experience making, Erizku weaves alternate narratives that interrogate art history, philosophy, linguistics, and artistic inclusion.
Jacqueline Francis, Ph.D., is the author of Making Race: Modernism and “Racial Art” in America (2011) and co-editor of Romare Bearden: American Modernist (2011). With Mary Ann Calo, Francis is working on a new book about African-American artists’ participation in federally funded art programs of the 1930s and their impact on the emergent, US art market of the 1940s. She has published articles on contemporary artists Olivia Mole, Joan Jonas, Andrea Fraser, Kerry James Marshall, and (with Tina Takemoto) David Hammons, and on the topic of Fair Use. Among her many museum catalogue essays are those on Alma Thomas (Columbus Museum of Art in Georgia and Chrysler Museum of Art, forthcoming 2021), Bob Thompson (Colby College Museum of Art, forthcoming 2021), Romare Bearden (The Museum of Modern Art, 2019), Mickalene Thomas (Seattle Art Museum, 2018), and Ralph Arnold (Museum of Contemporary Photography/Chicago, 2018).
Clifford Prince King is an artist living and working in New York and Los Angeles. King documents his intimate relationships in traditional, everyday settings that speak on his experiences as a queer black man. In these instances, communion begins to morph into an offering of memory; it is how he honors and celebrates the reality of layered personhood. Within King's images are nods to the beyond. Shared offerings to the past manifest in codes hidden in plain sight, known only to those who sit within a shared place of knowledge. Public collections holding his work include the Hammer Museum, Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Arts, ICA Miami, Minneapolis Institute of Art and Studio Museum in Harlem. Publications carrying King’s images as commissioned work and features include Aperture, BUTT, Cultured, Dazed, i-D, Interview, T Magazine, The New York Times, Vice, Vogue and The Wall Street Journal.
Key Jo Lee is Chief of Curatorial Affairs and Public Programs at Museum of the African Diaspora. Lee came to MoAD from The Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA), where she was Associate Curator of American Art. Lee joined the CMA in 2017 as Assistant Director of Academic Affairs. She was promoted in 2020 to Director of Academic Affairs and Associate Curator of Special Projects and later to Associate Curator of American Art. Lee’s expertise is in American art history, histories and theories of photography, and African American studies, as well as museum education. She has been responsible for curatorial and publication projects that highlight the intersection of scholarly work and public audiences and that illuminate works by artists of the Black Diaspora.
Adrienne Raquel is an image-maker and art director working between New York & Los Angeles. Inspired by femininity, soulfulness, and color, Adrienne's work is rooted in nostalgia and fantasy while remaining fresh and contemporary. Exhibitions include Aperture's New Black Vanguard, Jeffrey Deitch: Shattered Glass Miami, and Mickalene Thomas' Better Nights at Miami's Bass Museum. Adrienne's first solo exhibition, ONYX, was on view at Fotografiska New York in 2021. Photographed over the course of 2020, ONYX highlights the artistic balance of exotic dancing, athleticism, and sisterhood at one of Houston, TX most famous nightclubs.
Antwaun Sargent is an art critic and a writer who has contributed to The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vice and more, as well as essays to multiple museum publications. His first book, “The New Black Vanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion” (Aperture) is out now.
Dayonna Tucker is Museum of the African Diaspora’s Development Associate. She was born and raised in Harvey, Illinois, a city outside of Chicago, in a red brick home filled with amazing Black women. Always curious about all forms of creativity, and willing to try almost anything once, she believes her purpose in life is to breed love in all endeavors—scholarly and personally—and to bring about a change in the world.
Keenan Webster will open the day with selections of both traditional West African and original scores on the kora. Keenan has been studying music of the African Diaspora for over twenty years. Born in Nashville, Tennessee, his love of music deepened as a teenager in Los Angeles, where he began his music studies with master teachers from Africa and Cuba. Keenan performs the 21-string kora, a large calabash cut in half and covered withs cow hide with strings traditionally made from thin strips of hide.