Black British artist Barbara Walker works across multiple narrative series to create hard-hitting dramatic tableaux in which she does powerful justice to the psychological, physical, emotional, cultural, social, and imaginative realities of lives as lived by black women, men, and children, both within the United Kingdom and across the African diaspora. Answering her own question “Where is the black presence?,” she creates self-reflexively experimental and politically radicalized bodies of work in which she dramatizes the invisibilized and misrepresented lives of black subjects. Creating multilayered and multireferential bodies of work in which she not only questions problematic representations of “Africa and its peoples” but also rejects the centuries-long stranglehold of “poisonous, disrespectful, and skewed images of black people,” Walker fuses personal autobiography, family testimony, and scholarly research to bear witness to her status as a contemporary history painter. Coming to grips with the imaginative, political, and aesthetic force of one of her many series, I examine Louder Than Words to trace Walker’s visual and textual resistances to the intersecting relationships between black masculinity and white mainstream stereotyping, criminalization, racial profiling, physical persecution, and psychological wounding. Refusing to sanitize or clean up white atrocities enacted against black subjects, Walker works with charcoal, pencil, and paint to create emotively charged portraits and landscape scenes in which she visualizes black- rather than white-centered histories, narratives, and memories. Creating images that are “louder than words,” Walker betrays her lifelong determination to give “voice to the voiceless and power to the powerless.”
Research Article|November 01 2016
No More “Poisonous, Disrespectful, and Skewed Images of Black People”: Barbara Walker’s Louder Than Words
Nka (2016) 2016 (38-39): 122-133.
Celeste-Marie Bernier; No More “Poisonous, Disrespectful, and Skewed Images of Black People”: Barbara Walker’s Louder Than Words. Nka 1 November 2016; 2016 (38-39): 122–133. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10757163-3641766
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