Decoding Black Iconography The Art Museum and the Acquisition of Visual Culture Literacy in Diaspora Studies in College

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Alix Pierre


The paper examines how the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, the only one in the country dedicated to the work of African descended women artists, is used as a pedagogical tool in the interdisciplinary African Diaspora and the World course to help students further explore the depiction and visualization of diasporan aesthetics during their matriculation. From a visual culture perspective, this is a critical examination of the process of looking among non-art major college goers. The emphasis of the analysis is on the perceiver or the “educand” as Paulo Freire puts it, and ways she is trained to visually represent Africa and its diasporas. The article discusses how the subjects, first year students at a black liberal arts women’s college, are taught to construct meaning from and respond to imagery made by women artists from the diaspora. At the heart of the study is the response of the perceivers, through an Audio Narrative assignment, to artefacts that communicate an African and Afro-descended iconography. 


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Author Biography

Alix Pierre, Spelman College

Alix Pierre, PhD, teaches African Diaspora Studies at Spelman College and he is the director of Cultural Orientation. His research focuses on the diasporan retention and transformation of culture that includes the feminist perspective. He favors a transnational approach to diasporic culturalproduction(s) beyond the boundaries of nations-states. He explores the representation and visualization of black bodies, voices, thoughts, and aesthetics across media. Since 2015, he has been collaborating with the Miami-based Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator (DVCAI) as co–project manager and scholar-in-residence. He has led the incubator’s International Cultural Exchanges to Guadeloupe (2015, 2017), Jamaica (2018), and Belize (2019). His pubications have appeared in several journals and he is the author of L’i mage de la femme résistante chez quatre romancières noires: vision diasporique de la femme en résistance chez Maryse Condé, Simone Schwarz-Bart, Toni Morrison et Alice Walker (Presses Académiques Francophones: 2014). He is the recipient of the GLAM (2016-present) and CAORC-WARC (2019) fellowships.