Black and Brown: Miguel Covarrubias at the California African American Museum

Miguel_Covarrubias.pngMost people have heard something about the Harlem Renaissance. Maybe you've heard of one of the stars of the movement - James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston - and maybe you've read one of their works. More likely is that you're familiar with the distinctive and highly stylized artwork that's synonymous with the era. Whether the images feature dramatic silhouettes or vibrant and colorful scenes of urban life, there's always something about them that stands out and speaks to the (perceived) glamour of the time.

I adore the artwork of this cultural movement, and, when I grow up, I'd love to own a piece of art from that time. Up until recently, though, I didn't know one artist was behind many of these iconic works. That all changed when I heard about an exhibition featuring art by the Mexican artist Miguel Covarrubias at the California African American Museum. I was initially intrigued by the exhibitions impossibly long title - "The African Diaspora In The Art of Miguel Covarrubias: Driven By Color, Shaped By Cultures" - but imagine my delight upon seeing the work and discovering that Covarrubias was considered to be THE man responsible capturing the mood of one of the world's most important cultural movements!

José Miguel Covarrubias Duclaud was born in Mexico in 1904 and traveled to the United States at the age of 19 thanks to grant from the Mexican government. There, as exhibition notes from the CAAM explain:

"[..] he became friends with the intellectual elite of the Harlem Renaissance. His drawings and caricatures were featured in Vanity Fair, Vogue and Fortune magazines. In 1927 he illustrated Negro Drawings, which presented a more dignified image of African Americans to mainstream America. In the following years, Covarrubias also depicted Afro-Mexicans, Afro-Cubans and West and North Africans." [more]

The lovely people at the California African American Museum were kind enough to give me a guided tour of the exhibition, and I learned why he felt an affinity with African Americans - and people of African Descent globally. In addition to being visually intrigued, I can't help but think of Covarrubias in terms of the ongoing interactions between black and brown people here in Los Angeles.

Watch the video to find out more, then, go and see his glorious work for yourself. The exhibition runs until February 2012.

Kenya's Woman in Los Angeles

Dr. Wenwa Akinyi Odinga OrangaHome, From Home loves the culture beat, but when I was recently given a chance to talk to Kenya's Consul General, Ambassador Dr. Wenwa Akinyi Odinga Oranga, I couldn't pass it up.

Another World is Possible

Nicole D. SconiersOur guest on this week's podcast is Nicole D. Sconiers. She's the author of a new book called Escape from Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage, a collection of ten stories set in "a futuristic Los Angeles." (Yup, this is Black Speculative Fiction.) While the world Sconiers has created is fantasy(esque), the issues she deals with are very real - Black hair, relationships, race and more - all of it tackled with wit and humor.

Podcast and Contest: A Conversation with Melvin Van Peebles

Christabel and Melvin

Well, hello there HfH'ers!

I'm still recovering from my "Big Fat African Wedding" - there are still some items available on registry; hint, hint - but with the change of season comes both new opportunity and a return to the proverbial grind. Personally, I'm still somewhat in party mode, so I thought I'd ease back in by profiling the "Godfather of Independent Cinema," Melvin Van Peebles on this week's show. He not only celebrated his 79th birthday last month (August 21, Virgo) but, moreover, anywhere Melvin goes the party follows.

Video and Contest: A Q&A with Les Nubians

Christabel Nsiah-Buadi's radio series Home, from Home celebrates the African Diaspora through interviews with artists and cultural pioneers. Past guests have included Roy Ayers, Melvin Van Peebles, Afro fusion singer and designer Wunmi and Jazz singer Somi. This summer and beyond, Christabel and Home, From Home will be on KCET.org sharing weekly interviews with artists and performers visiting the Greater Los Angeles area. For more information, visit www.hfhshow.com.

(Just here for the contest? Scoot down below!)

When people ask me what I am (and I'm asked that a lot), I say, "British-Born Ghanaian." It's a term I settled on in my teens after deciding to accept - rather than reject - the encounter between Great Britain and Ghana, the main cultural and historic influences in my life. It turns out I wasn't alone in my thinking about cultural identity. Helene and Celia Fussart, also known as Les Nubians, make music that embraces their many influences while also staying firmly rooted in African culture. They even came up with a far more catchy (and, quite frankly, more inclusive) term than my hybrid designation: "Afropean."

Les NubiansI talked to Les Nubians just before their recent performance at The Conga Room in downtown LA. (You can view more of their tour dates here.) The discussion was wide ranging from their latest album, Nü Revolution, to the difficult work of maintaining your cultural integrity in a cultural climate that alludes to, but is still afraid of, true diversity. We also talked about some of their recent collaborations, including a very exciting one with Manu Dibango, the man behind Soul Makossa, which some say is the first disco record. (Does that mean Africa created disco?! You're welcome!) 

Podcast: "That's Funny. You Didn't Sound Black On The Phone!" A Q&A with Jacquetta Szathmari

JacquettaSzathmari

Christabel Nsiah-Buadi's radio series Home, from Home celebrates the African Diaspora through interviews with artists and cultural pioneers. Past guests have included Roy Ayers, Melvin Van Peebles, Afro fusion singer and designer Wunmi and Jazz singer Somi. This summer and beyond, Christabel and Home, From Home will be on KCET.org sharing weekly interviews with artists and performers visiting the Greater Los Angeles area. For more information, visit www.hfhshow.com.

Have you ever been told that you don't sound the way you look? I have. Growing up in London, I was told that I didn't sound "black", or that I sounded "rich" because of how I enunciated my words. Black kids used the observation as a put-down, while white adults used it as a compliment. Now that I'm all grown up and living in America, I don't hear the line as much... HOWEVER, the combination of my brown skin and London accent has left a trail of confusion and (occasional) destruction in offices from New York to Los Angeles. It's funny, and I could write a (pretty funny) book about it.

If I did write such a book, my first choice of title would be: That's Funny. You Didn't Sound Black On The Phone. Unfortunately, I can't use that as New York-based writer and comedian Jacquetta Szathmari is already using it for her one-woman show. "That's Funny. You Didn't Sound Black On The Phone" was a 2010 Hollywood Fringe Festival Best Comedy Nominee and tells the tale of a "non-conformist black girl in extreme rural Maryland who almost 'gives up on black people', takes the Official Preppy Handbook as her co-pilot, and flees to a Delaware boarding school with dreams of being nouveau riche and living Jesus-free in Connecticut. Dark, dark, comedy from a dark, dark comedian."

Jacquetta and her show are back in Los Angeles for the 2011 Hollywood Fringe Festival, so I had a chance to talk to the non-conformist Black girl from rural Maryland about her play and her travels. Listen to our laugh (and wince!) filled conversation below:

About Home, From Home

Christabel Nsiah-BuadiChristabel Nsiah-Buadi's audio series Home, from Home celebrates the African Diaspora through interviews with artists and cultural pioneers. Past guests have included Roy Ayers, Melvin Van Peebles, Afro fusion singer and designer Wunmi and Jazz singer Somi. This summer and beyond, Christabel and Home, From Home will be on KCET.org sharing weekly interviews with artists and performers visiting the Greater Los Angeles area. For more information, visit www.hfhshow.com.

Christabel is an award-winning broadcaster and cultural observer. In addition to hosting Home, from Home, she is the US correspondent for Britain's "Colourful Radio" and a producer on KCRW. She has hosted shows for BBC TV and Radio, and, behind the scenes, Christabel was a Senior Supervising Producer for several award-winning Public Radio shows ("News and Notes," "Weekend All Things Considered" and "Tell Me More with Michel Martin.")

In her spare time, she can be found playing R'nB hits from the 60-90's (don't hate), discovering new musical discoveries, and harassing her cats, Diggers and Moko.


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