Essential Viewing: The Museum of the African Diaspora
If we haven’t impressed this upon you enough already, San Francisco is home to more museums than most everywhere else in the world. All throughout the Bay Area lie enormous collections of artwork, from classical to ancient to modern, comprised of every material known to humankind, presented in a wealth of different styles. One of the most popular and valuable museums currently in operation in San Francisco is the Museum of the African Diaspora (known as MoAD).
Acknowledging that there are plenty of museums in the area that focus on European art and culture, MoAD blazes a trail in a different direction, with art that exclusively focuses on the culture created through African Diaspora. The resulting collections and exhibits are a stunning look at the ways that African culture and art have spread across the globe.
When its doors opened in December of 2005, the future ahead was uncertain. Now, 15 years later, it seems clear that MoAD is an essential part of the Bay Area museum scene and a crucial venue for people of African descent to display their work. It is also an incredibly valuable resource for the disruption of the narrative of whiteness in art presented by the primarily European collections held by many other museums. At MoAD, people come together in order to learn, explore, and be enlightened by the stunning creations of artists of African descent.
Because most of the artwork displayed by MoAD is not part of a permanent collection, the museum has a wide number of visiting exhibitions. Currently on exhibition at MoAD, Black is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite.
A selection of more than 40 of the artist’s pictures of black individuals with their hair and clothing based on their traditional African heritage, this exhibition pulls from the vast collection of pictures taken by this key – and often overlooked – member of the Harlem Renaissance.
These pictures, taken throughout the 1950s and 1960s, boldly dared to embrace the African roots of its subject, something that was even more taboo at that time of racial tension than it is now. The pictures not only remain an artifact to the peerless photographic eye of Brathwaite, they also display the courage of the sitters who dared to defy contemporary notions of what beauty was and instead embraced the traditions and styles of their own marvelous histories.