And here is a website with a whole list of Black/African Saints. And here’s a webpage with just fifteen if you want to start out with a less overwhelming number. This site (which I also link below) has a good number of the most well-known early African Saints.
I think people often don’t realize that certain Saints are Black because they are, alas, whitewashed in most images of them (Augustine being a prime example of that). So when you click the links above, you’ll probably take one look at the images included on webpages and go “lol this guy’s not black!” It can be frustrating, but luckily non-whitewashed art is out there – it’s usually very ancient or very contemporary. I’ll include some here.
Portrait of a group of freed slaves on their way to work in a cotton field on Marion Chaplin Place Plantation on St. Helena Island in South Carolina, c. 1863-1866. By Hubbard and Mix. Animated stereoview.
These are some Filmmakers of African descent we loved in 2013!
1. Steve McQueen for his behemoth 12 Years A Slave. So many things we love about him, but our favorite is his side eye.
2. Ava Duvernay, award winning filmmaker extraordinaire. From publicists, to black film activator, distributor and director. She even broke Twitter with her Scandal episode. Girl crush!
3. Bradford Young, cinematographer that makes everything look amazing. Mother of George and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints this last year. How can a machine make so much poetry? Someone give this man an award.
4. Andrew Dosunmu, photographer turned director, with Mother of George this year. An auteur, leading us into the philosophy of the African aesthetic in film. Everytime, he, without visual effects, turns Brooklyn into an unbelievably gorgeous African city…How?
5. John Ridley, Screenwriter. 12 Years A Slave. Period.
6. Jahmil Qubeka, director, Of Good Report. This guy burned his passport when his film was banned. The world paid attention, and were not disappointed. What a great little film. Gorgeous black and white picture, and a story that is difficult to ignore or forget.
7. Chika Anadu, Lawyer turned director, winning awards for first feature 'B for Boy’. A grown up, female-driven drama that challenges archetypes for African women and female (mother/daughter) relationships on screen.
8. Frances Bodomo, for the short film that stole our attention ‘Afronauts’. A scifi short with a distinctive visual aesthetic based on the African space race. We can’t wait to see more!
9. Kibwe Tavares, director, Jonah. If you’ve seen this scifi short, set in Dar Es Salaam, and partial commentary on tourism and the environment without sacrificing the entertainment factor. Such great visual effects, notably the whale!!! I cannot wait to see what he does next!
10. Akosua Adoma Owusu, director, Kwaku Ananse. Currently rebuilding and opening the Rex Cinema in Ghana, Akosua’s body of work has the mark of a cinematic force to be reckoned with. All of it thoughtful and deliberate, with a distinctive artistic intention and style, we loved Kwaku this year and can’t wait to see her helm a feature length script.
There are many more filmmakers that made 2013 interesting, including those from the Carribbean, and other diaspora…Reblog with your additions!
Concerning the use of Catholic imagery in African religions.
I’ll preface this post with the following statement: I have nothing but the utmost respect, support, and intrigue when it comes to the religions of Vodou, Santeria, Candomblé, and other “New World” religions with African origin and their followers. That being said, with the growing popularity of the various African Diasporic Religions in the United States over the past few years, I fear that a mass distortion is happening amongst the general population who may identify themselves as “spiritual”. The African slaves that were taken to the continents of North and South America brought with them their indigenous religions, however with their Christian owners forbidding them from participating in such rituals came the need to develop a sophisticated way of hiding their true beliefs. One such way was to mask their gods behind the images of Catholic saints. By using the aspects within the saint’s imagery along with the story of the saint’s life, a skillful system was organized to identify a particular saint along with a spirit that shared similar qualities. This system of syncretizing other gods with those of Catholic saints is nothing new and was used quite extensively in a newly converted Europe and to this day many local saints still carry certain attributes of their predecessors. However, this concept is relatively new to many modern Americans and with it comes the widespread misappropriation of images by those who don’t understand the original purpose behind the practice and thus many other traditions begin to suffer. It’s imperative that we not forget who exactly these images represent and the original saints behind them, for they are distinct, powerful in their own right and possess their own unique personalities. They lived in their own times with their own stories, admirable figures deserving of honor and yet much of this is being forgotten because of syncretism. Those of us belonging to traditions who do indeed work with the original saints behind the image are becoming eclipsed and misunderstood by the ignorance of those who fail to familiarize themselves with the character of the person behind the picture. One such instance of this misunderstanding that is becoming particularly prevalent concerns the image of the Mater Dolorosa from the side altar in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem as a syncretic image of the Vodou Lwa, Erzulie Freda. Pictured below, this image has almost exclusively become associated with Freda in the minds of many without ever having given thought of the suffering Madonna that lies behind. The story and pain behind this image and behind every ex voto left at her altar by the many faithful who have pleaded to her for aid is becoming all but forgotten, or perhaps worse, not even cared about-often, quite ironically, by those who are the first to scream “appropriation!”. Both personally and traditionally the image of the Mater Dolorosa, Sorrowful Mother, is an incredibly important one but here in America where many of my people reside, she is becoming misunderstood and misrepresented by the ignorance of some. This then becomes a personal issue for those of us who have grown up with and have long held a devotion to the original figure. As we all wish to be understood and acknowledged for who we are, so do spirits, and while I have no issue with the traditional use of these images by the followers of the African religions, it’s important that we give honor to the spirit being represented and invoked. If you see a person giving homage to a saint respect their devotion to that spirit without trying to replace them in your mind, the reverse is true as well. No one likes to be forgotten, in this world or another.
Once again this message is not one of hostility towards the practice of the African Traditional Religions, merely a public service announcement not to brush aside the saints in the image and to forget that these spirits are unique and have personalities of their own, while also not assuming the intentions of those who own such images.
Haitian Soldiers Memorialized At The Siege of Savannah Monument
The Siege of Savannah - On Oct. 9, 1779, a Haitian regiment known as the Chasseurs Volontaires de Saint-Domingue served as a reserve unit to American and French forces fighting a British contingent. The unit was comprised of more than 500 free men of color from Haiti.
As battered American and French soldiers fell back, the Haitian troops moved in to provide a retreat. The battle resulted in the largest number of casualties the allies suffered in a single engagement.
Many of the Haitian soldiers later fought to win their country’s own war of independence, crediting their military experience in Savannah. (Source: Haitian American Historical Society)
On Oct. 9, the allies launched a bloody frontal assault that was repelled. The British pursued the dazed allies, who suffered more than 1,000 dead or wounded.
But the bulk of the force lived to fight another day mainly because their retreat was covered by a rear-guard stand made by the Haitians, historians say.
About 800 Haitians, including 80 slaves who were rewarded with their freedom, had voluntarily joined the French force. Accounts of Haitian casualties vary, although most historians agree they were heavy and included at least a dozen deaths.
Haitian historians say the battle had a major impact upon Haiti’s future. The Haitian volunteers returned home with battle experience and a new view of their colonial status.
“The Haitians who participated in those battles came back with an ideal; an ideal of freedom and liberty was developed,” said Gerard Laurent, a Port-au-Prince historian and author of 19 books on his homeland’s history.
Among the volunteers was teen-ager Henri Christophe, a general in the Haitian revolt that in 1804 established the Western Hemisphere’s second republic and its first black-majority one.
Yet there was no sign of U.S. gratitude for the Savannah heroism, Haitian historians say. Instead, they supported the French against the Haitians and have been hostile or, at best, indifferent to their Caribbean neighbors during most of their history.
Americans continued to own slaves six decades after Haitian independence, and obviously feared any contacts that might encourage American blacks to rebel. Haiti was isolated or exploited by larger nations as it fell into the cycle of dictatorships and internal strife it was hoped would end when Aristide became its first freely elected president.
Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (Saint-George) (December 25, 1745 – June 10, 1799) Born in Guadeloupehe was the son of George Bologne de Saint-Georges, a wealthy planter, and Nanon, his African slave. Saint-Georges was a champion fencer, a violin virtuoso and conductor of the leading symphony orchestra in Paris. During the French Revolution, he was colonel of the ‘Legion St.-Georges’, the first all black regiment in Europe, fighting on the side of the Republic.
Even in his adolescence, Joseph Boulogne displayed talent beyond his abilities as a fencer. Exhibiting virtuosic ability on the violin, Boulogne would often “ establish themes in different tonalities to the ceaseless delight of his listeners.” He was the first violinist for La Popliniere’s orchestra, under the direction of his composition teacher, Francois-Joseph Gossec (1734-1829).
His fencing master, La Boëssière, best describes Boulogne’s progress through his adolescence:
“At fifteen his progress was so rapid that he beat the best swordsmen. At seventeen he had acquired the greatest speed. In time, he combined with his prompt execution an expertise that finally made him without peer. He had grown to a height of five feet ten inches. He was very well built, with a prodigious strength of body and extraordinary vigor. Lively, supple, and slender, he astonished everyone with his agility. No one in the class showed more grace, more consistency.”
Alongside his physical training and classical education, Boulogne was also a student of some of the most revered musicians in Paris. Jean-Marie Leclair (1697-1764), the brilliant violinist, and Francois-Joseph Gossec (1734-1829), the skilled composer, took Boulogne under their wing, recognized the great musical potential he possessed, and began to cultivate it. In 1761, upon completion of his education, Boulogne was madeGendarme de la Garde du Roi. Today the Chevalier de Saint-Georges is mainly remembered as the first classical composer of African ancestry, and famously gaining the nickname “Black Mozart.”