What Is Africobra?

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By: Ashlee Thomas

At times it takes time for the world to catch up to genius; AfriCobra (half a century later) is shining as a reigning contributor to the Black Arts Movement in the US. Founded in the 1960s during the critical years of the civil rights movement, a group of black visual artists created a collective: African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (AfriCobra). The group understood the power of imagery and created a manifesto “to preach positivity to the people” through vibrant colors and images of black families in action. In the midst of the all the ugliness of America during the civil rights era, AfriCobra was determined to channel energy into positive action.

At inception, AfriCobra was seen as a radical artform to be feared. The images of black men with fists raised in solidarity or epitaphs about race preservation struck a cord of discomfort in mainstream America and AfriCobra found themselves on the outside of artistic institutions, ignored by the prevailing artworld, invisible to the masses. Until now.

In recent years, platforms like the GMCVB’s Art of Black Miami have been able to provide a bridge for exhibitions like AfriCobra to the global art world. Independent black artists face the real challenges of access in such an exclusive industry. Art of Black Miami’s global reach has brought high-end art collectors to the front doors of these visual artists. A collective of art galleries and producers: MUCE, Art Africa, the Amodlozi Gallery, Little Haiti Cultural Center, Art Beat Miami, Prizm, the Historical Lyric theater, and MOCA, who curate and exhibit art of the African Diaspora make up the Art of Black Miami collective and work with major institutions to ensure Black voices and Black artists are included in the arts renaissance in Miami and the world. Art of Black Miami 365 further ensures that exhibitions like AfriCobra have exposure year-round.

With support from Art of Black Miami, AfriCobra: Message to the People exhibited at Museum of Contemporary Art – North Miami (MOCA) during North Miami Art Basel 2018 through March 2019. The collective’s first installment AfriCobra: Nation Time will now be presented as an official Collateral Event of Biennale Arte 2019 (May 11 – November 24 2019) in Venice, Italy.

What to expect from this exhibition? Art as a form of joyful protest; a dominant motif found throughout the AfriCobra exhibition with bold colors that speak directly to the variety of hues and experiences that make up Black life in America. The complexity of the culture is further represented in the many geometric shapes and patterns the collective utilizes to create a unifying theme amongst their work. AfriCobra explores the connectedness of Blacks in the West and beyond: from the US, Caribbean and the motherland.

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