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