How the black body has been imagined in the West has always been a rich site for global examination and contestation. The representation and depiction of black peoples often has been governed by prevailing attitudes about race and sexuality. How the black body is displayed and viewed changes with each generation, constantly allowing young diasporic innovators from the Americas, Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean to add their own ideas about reinvention and self-representation. Paris, an internationally key and highly influential Western space in all things concerning the visual arts and modernity, was the perfect stage for Black Portraiture[s]: The Black Body in the West, the fifth in the series of visual art conferences held in Paris in January 2013. The essays offered in this special issue of Nka were gathered from that historic meeting and offer the most cutting-edge perspectives on the production and skill of black self-representation, desire, and the exchange of the gaze from the nineteenth century to the present day in fashion, film, art, and the archive. Drawing on the ideas and works of leading and emerging writers of our time while including the discussions of photographers, scholars, artists, curators, and filmmakers of the African diaspora, the Black Portraiture[s] conference clearly revolved around collaboration, building upon the strengths of each of the organizing institutions as well as the curators, writers, artists, filmmakers, and photographers whose visualization of the African diaspora has guided these crucial discussions about art and representation.

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