Black Artist Collective 'Négritude Night' takes audience into mind of an artist
To cap off Black History Month, the Black Artist Collective held its third annual showcase in Syracuse featuring song, poetry, spoken word, dance and live painting.
The theme of the Black Artist Collective Event was Négritude. Martikah Williams, co-founder of the Black Artist Collective and co-director of the showcase, explains the movement originated out of the Harlem Renaissance and other eras of Black pride and resurgence.
"It's really all about helping our community to reclaim things that in our culture things that originated from blackness and have been taken in a mainstream culture, have been appropriated by white culture or been suppressed by white supremacy and systemic racism," Williams said.
One of Williams' pieces was of the song "Black Rage" by Lauryn Hill.
The Black Artist Collective breaks the mold of a sit, watch and applause performance standard. Instead, the black box theater consists of three small stages.
"Each stage comes to life with the artists that graces it," Alice Queen, the creative director explained to the audience. "Follow them with your eyes, hear them with your heart, and move around with your bodies. Do not stay in one place. The chairs on the sides are just a formality."
Queen said when the audience enters the black box space they enter into the mind of an artist. Queen kicked off the event by singing "The Circle of Life".
"Rafiki is like the eye in the sky, watching things from the top and kind of all-knowing, all-wise," Queen said. "Because I'm the creative director, I'm up here starting to bring the people in and kind of pushing them to think about what they're about to see. Then having the artists go ahead and take over."
Performers move between spaces - their eyes darting around the room as each vignette starts and stops and moves into the next. Dancers weave into the open floor space as the audience makes way for them. Poets and singers share their stories and their crafts.
In the back of the space, two visual artists create live art. Victor Matthews paints two canvases depicting a mother braiding her daughter's hair.
"The mother, she's really showing her skills to the child here," Matthews said. "A survival thing, that's what braiding used to be."
Queen said the purpose of the event is for the audience to immerse themselves in the artistic experience.
"I hope they feel and understand that they are part of the process when it comes to the artist's mind," Queen said. "They are the art. They are the arts. as much as they come to watch us, we are always watching them and they are our muse. Our community is our muse and they are the reasons why we keep going."
Future events for the Black Artist Collective include their annual Freedom Fest around Juneteenth.