This article problematizes the discourse of transnationalism and suggests an alternative conceptual frame, TransAfrican, by looking at the art of two understudied artists, Winold Reiss and Romare Bearden. A close reading of a select number of their artworks reveals interesting similarities in how they represent black culture and finds that these artists convey more than is usually understood about their work—a spatial architecture of performance and a critical return of the gaze that challenges the viewer to think more deeply about the black experience of America. I find useful Stephanie Smallwood’s concept of “anomalous intimacies,” articulated in her book Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora, in order to think about how these two artists are in conversation with one another and how they represent the black community after the slave trade. I conclude that TransAfrican is possibly a more useful metaphor than transnationalism to understand how these artists, one German, one African American, reveal their own identity and black identity through their art practice.
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Jeffrey C. Stewart; From Transnational to Transafrican: Winold Reiss and Romare Bearden. Nka 1 November 2017; 2017 (41): 30–42. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10757163-4271630
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