In the Fine Sand Lines of Dream
People of Utopia: Godfried Donkor
ARTCO Publishing, 2011
"In the epigraph to his recent book Darker than Blue: On the Moral Economies of Black Atlantic Culture (2010), Paul Gilroy cites a 1969 quote from the Afro-Trinidadian historian C.L.R. James:
Now to talk to me about black studies as if it’s something that concerned [only] black people is an utter denial. This is the history of Western Civilization. I can’t see it otherwise. This is the history that black people and white people and all serious students of modern history and the history of the world have to know. To say it’s some kind of ethnic problem is a lot of nonsense.
James’s description of the universality of black studies, held up by Gilroy as a critical premise to any understanding of the geo-political problems facing the world today, could just as easily describe Donkor’s artistic trajectory. His exhumation of repressed narratives retells not only black history in the West since the sixteenth century, but also, and perhaps more crucially, the history of the West itself. These collages and paintings reveal an underbelly of racism and oppression indistinguishable from Modernist achievements in art, music, and thought. While the first ten years of Donkor’s work undeniably engages with archetypes of black figuration and black history, his aesthetic interrogations are always consistently moving towards this understanding of interconnection and non-difference. Through the constant return to and creation of these spaces of exception, Donkor’s practice will continue to reveal moments of escape from the ‘fictionalized’ hierarchies of ethnicity, class, geography, and custom.”
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