Antagonistic Cooperation: Romare Bearden’s New Paris Blues

The Wildenstein Plattner Institute is proud to host Robert O’Meally, Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and founder of the Center for Jazz Studies. Professor O’Meally, the author of Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey, will explore Bearden’s New Paris Blues, an unfinished series of books that spans media, cities, and artistic circles.

Join us on June 3rd as we explore this exclusive and elusive series in Romare Bearden’s oevure. Antagonisitc Cooperation is presented in cooperation with the Romare Bearden Foundation and Professor O’Meally.


Conversation on Harlem Renaissance and Fashion Rescheduled

This event has gone virtual and will be held on Zoom on 06/16. You must register to attend.

03/24 Convo on Harlem Renaissance Fashion Postponed

This event has been postponed in response to public health concerns but we hope to reschedule for a later date. Check back for updated information.

Upcoming convo on fashion and the Harlem Renaissance

I will be having a conversation with Liz Way from the Museum at FIT about the Harlem Renaissance and fashion. Join us on March 24th at the Harlem School of the Arts!

Harlem during the Jazz Age was renown for the style of its denizens. The twenties was a time of radical transformation for clothing, and Harlem was at the cutting edge of new trends, influencing mainstream fashion and culture in unprecedented ways. This conversation will examine what people wore during the Harlem Renaissance and beyond, from flapper dresses to Zoot suits. The style of fashionable Harlemites has had a lasting influence on fashion and is still felt today.

SAVE THE DATE: Newberry Seminar 10/04!

I will be participating in this year’s American Art and Visual Culture Seminar at the Newberry Library in Chicago on Friday, October 4th.

Check it out if you are in the area:

My paper is entitled, “Dark Stars, Bright Ambitions: Black Celebrity in Jazz Age NY/LON” and I will be sharing more of my research from my Harlem-on-Thames project.

Lecture next week 4/16

Romare Bearden Foundation presents the 
Cinque Artist Program Series at Harlem School of the Arts 

James L. Allen: Artist-Photographer of the Harlem Renaissance
With Dr. Camara Holloway

During the Harlem Renaissance, James Allen photographed Harlem’s luminaries and enjoyed a successful career as an award-winning artist. When the story of the Renaissance was later written, though, his name was virtually forgotten. Dr. Camara Holloway will revisit her research that recovered Allen from obscurity and discuss the landmark exhibition that restored Allen to his rightful place in the Harlem Renaissance’s art scene.

Tuesday APRIL 16, 2019
HSA Gallery 
Free & Open To The Public

Click here to register:

Dr. Camara Holloway was the curator for the exhibition “Portraiture and the Harlem Renaissance: The Photographs of James L. Allen” shown at the Yale University Art Gallery in 1999. Dr. Holloway is an art historian specializing in early 20th century American art with particular focus on the history of photography, race and representation, and transatlantic modernist networks. She is recognized for her expertise on African American Art, particularly African American Photography, Critical Race Art History, and as a seasoned consultant for exhibitions, museum collections, and symposia/lectures planning.  Dr. Holloway’s research centers on modernism and photography within the circum-Atlantic world, paying special attention to the impact of race on art and aesthetics. In addition to her ongoing research on Allen, she is developing an exhibition about the influence of Africa on fashion and a project about blacks who went to London during the Jazz Age.

In the spirit and legacy of the Cinque Gallery, founded by artists Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis and Ernest Crichlow, the Cinque Artist Program aims to continue the ideal of artists gathering to exchange information, advice and resources from their experiences. These programs are geared to adult artists, students, and enthusiasts, and are presented free and open to the public. 

For more information: 

This program is part of the centennial celebration of the Harlem Renaissance

Performing Black Womanhood


Adjoa Osei is a PhD Researcher of Brazilian Studies at the University of Liverpool, funded by the AHRC and the Duncan Norman Scholarship.  She was a fellow at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, resident from October 2018 until April 2019.  She completed an MPhil in Portuguese Studies at the University of Oxford, funded by the Ertegun Scholarship in the Humanities, achieving a Distinction. Prior to this, she completed a BA in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies at King’s College London, University of London achieving a First-Class Honours.  

The twentieth century was an exciting moment of avant-garde artistic and intellectual innovation.  While the likes of Igor Stravinsky, Béla Bartók, Mario de Andrade, Miles Davis and John Coltrane were thinking about new ways of representing sound, artists such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Emiliano de Cavalcanti were thinking about new ways of representing the figure.  Within this moment of…

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SAVE THE DATE: Upcoming Talk in DC on 03/02

I’m gearing up for my “Afrochic” talk at CAA this Friday (!) but soon after that I will be heading to my natal city of DC to give another talk about some relatively new research of mine at the Library of Congress. Chocolate City Peeps come check it out!

Black Womanhood Flyer-1.jpg

Adjoa Osei – PhD Researcher, University of Liverpool
Lá vem a baiana

The Portuguese term baiana translates as ‘woman from the state of Bahia’, and refers to Afro-descendent women street vendors in Salvador de Bahia. Beginning in the 1920s, the black or mulata body in motion, as represented by the baiana, was officially elevated as a symbol of the modern, mestiça Brazilian corporality. This presentation explores the shifts in representations of the baiana archetype to an emblem of Brazilian national identity. I track the baiana across geographic spaces, performed on stage by various black women performers including Brazilian soprano Elsie Houston, Josephine Baker and Katherine Dunham.

Adjoa Osei is a Kluge Center fellow at the Library of Congress, resident from October 2018 until April 2019. She is a PhD Researcher of Brazilian Studies at the University of Liverpool, funded by the AHRC and the Duncan Norman Scholarship. She completed an MPhil in Portuguese Studies at the University of Oxford, funded by the Ertegun Scholarship in the Humanities, achieving a Distinction. Prior to this, she completed a BA in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies at King’s College London, University of London achieving a First-Class Honours. She co-organises the Image, Sound and Performance Research Group at the University of Liverpool.

Dr. Camara Dia Holloway, Independent Scholar
Dark Beauty, Bright Ambition: Navigating Black Stardom in Jazz Age NY/LON

This presentation is an exploration of the lives and careers of black women performers for whom London was the key point of anchor, besides Harlem, as they pursued their professional goals during the interwar period. With a thriving bohemian scene and ever-growing audience clamoring for jazz, the British entertainment industry provided plentiful opportunities for black performers. Florence Mills, Elisabeth Welch, Nina Mae McKinney and Edna Thomas will be amongst those discussed. Less studied than the New York-Paris axis, the NY/LON networks offer rich insights for those interested in this important moment in modernist and black cultural histories.

Dr. Camara Dia Holloway is an independent scholar whose research is focused on issues of race and representation between the Two World Wars. Her talk is drawn from ongoing research examining the interwar connections between Harlem and London entitled “Harlem on Thames.” Dr. Holloway earned her PhD from the Department of History of Art at Yale University. She is the founding co-director of the Association for Critical Race Art History (ACRAH).

Sala Elise Patterson, Independent Scholar
Finding Ady: Recovering the Story of a Black Surrealist Muse

Adrienne ‘Ady’ Fidelin (1915-2004) was a Guadeloupean dancer and model who became muse to a core group of avant-garde artists in Paris, and the first Black model to appear in a major American fashion magazine. Fidelin is captured in hundreds of works by the celebrated American artist Man Ray, produced between 1936 and 1940 when the two were lovers. She was also the subject of work by Pablo Picasso, Lee Miller and Roland Penrose, yet there have been only scant and often erroneous references to her in literature on the period. This talk chronicles the decade-long, transatlantic effort to discover who Fidelin was, and what happened to her before and after those few, well-documented years with Man Ray. It asks why Fidelin “disappeared” in the first place, and how the tendency to marginalize black women’s stories played a part.

Sala Elise Patterson is a writer and researcher of overlooked stories of the African Diaspora. A former magazine editor, she has written for The Atlantic’s CityLab, New Internationalist, Ford Foundation Report, and T: The New York Times Style Magazine, where she brought Adrienne Fidelin’s story to the American mainstream in 2007 with the article, “Yo, Adrienne.” Patterson co-authored the bibliographic entry on Fidelin in the Oxford Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biographies, and an essay on her in the forthcoming Musée D’Orsay exhibition catalogue for The Black Model: From Géricault to Matisse. She holds a BA from Columbia University in African-American Literature and an MSc in Development Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

TEASER: CAA2019 Afrochic presentation

Happy New Year!

If you are planning on attending CAA2019, I will be presenting the paper, “Afrochic: Race and the Emergence of American Fashion,” on the following panel:

Race in the History of Design: Objects, Identity, Methodologies | Design Studies Forum (formerly Design Forum: History, Criticism and Theory) | New York Hilton Midtown – 2nd Floor – Regent | February 15, 2019 | 6:00 – 7:30 pm

Since I had to leave some material on the cutting room floor, I thought I would share it here. My talk will be focused on the 1923 Primitive Negro Art exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art but during the course of my research I came across this earlier example of African cultural appropriation related to the following garment purchased by the American Museum of Natural History in 1917:



The garment is identified as a “Hausa man’s robe” from Nigeria. It was one of many “documents” from around the world that fashion designers were encouraged to draw inspiration from when formulating modern American designs.

It was placed in the center of the one of the displays at the Exhibition of Industrial Arts held at AMNH in 1919. This exhibition was a showcase for how a unique American design aesthetic could be generated by gleaning from the global array of history and culture contained in museums.


In the detail above you can see the garment as well as the textile that it inspired directly below it.

Another textile designer came up with a more abstracted all-over pattern for a cretonne fabric based on the garment in 1918.


The fashion designer Jessie Franklin Turner decided to reinterpret the garment as a caftan-style negligee in 1918. It was made of wisteria velvet with wool embroidery in coordinating colors.


I have also found this 1920s scarf in the Brooklyn Museum of Art Costume Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that bears a pattern reminiscent of the garment’s embroidery.


For some reason, a number of designers found this one particular garment of African origin especially fascinating and it sparked their creativity as they mined the globe in an effort to develop a new American design language.

This garment was so noteworthy that more than two decades later, Jessie Franklin Turner based another dress upon it for a 1940 exhibition for the Museum of Costume Art (precursor to the MET’s Costume Institute) that once again intended to highlight how global cultures could inspire American design.


If this tangent whets your curiosity come see my talk on February 15th! The whole panel promises to be really interesting. Hope to see you there!



Teaser: Afrochic

I haven’t posted in a while and recently when I have shown my face I invariably get asked what I have been up to so here is a little a taste of the research that I will be presenting at a CAA2019 talk titled, “Afrochic: Race and the Emergence of American Fashion.”


Above are some of the reading materials that I have been delving into and here is the abstract for my talk:

This paper considers the role of race in the formation of modern fashion design. Early in twentieth century, Women’s Wear editor, M. D. C. Crawford, and the Brooklyn Museum’s Curator of Ethnology, Stewart Culin, forged a productive alliance between the museum and fashion worlds to foster the development of American design. Simultaneously, colonial enterprises delivered increased information about Africa to Western audiences and its raw materials to the marketplace. As the fashion industry sought to contribute to the national effort to modernize lifestyle and taste, it capitalized on the precedent of the primitivist vogue that had sparked a fundamental reinvention of art and culture amongst the avant-garde. When Culin organized the exhibition Primitive Negro Art, Chiefly from the Belgian Congo in 1923, it showcased not just the aesthetic merits of African expressive culture but its suitability as inspiration for modern fashion. The garment prototypes designed to accompany the show and the promotional rhetoric orchestrated by Crawford reveal that in addition to the appropriation of African design principles and styles, entrenched cultural myths about Africa and racial beliefs profoundly affected emergent fashion trends. Through the lens of fashion, where many would least expect it, this paper demonstrates that race played a significant role in the nation’s modernization at the beginning of the twentieth century. Reinventing American identity, aesthetics and mode of dress didn’t entail abandoning the nation’s traditional recourse to race. Arguably the triumph of the American Century hinged upon an Africanist presence lending its currency to the culture industry. 

I will leave you with a sample image that will feature in the presentation demonstrating how Kuba textiles were looked to for inspiration for modern American fashion.

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For more Afrochic news, you can visit my new page. Hope to see you at CAA!



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