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MOCA presents "AfriCOBRA: Messages to The People" during Miami Art Week 2018
Barbara Jones Hogu, Rise and Take Control, 1970. Screen-print. Photo courtesy: Barbara Jones Hogu .

NORTH MIAMI, FLA.- In celebration of Miami Art Week 2018, the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami (MOCA) is presenting a groundbreaking exhibition celebrating the founding of AfriCOBRA – the black artist collective that defined the visual aesthetic of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s. 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the collective which came out of Chicago. “AfriCOBRA: Messages to the People” is on view at MOCA from Nov. 27, 2018 – April 7, 2019. Miami Art Week takes place from Dec. 6 – 9, 2018.

Founded in 1968, by Jeff Donaldson, Jae Jarrell, Wadsworth Jarrell, Barbara Jones-Hogu and Gerald Williams, AfriCOBRA, which stands for the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists, created images that defined the visual aesthetic of the Black Arts Movement. The artistic movement was a complement to the Black Power Movement that centered the liberation of Black people, taking up and extending the arms of the Civil Rights Movement. The founders, like many artists of the 1960s and 1970s, understood that their artistic voices could contribute to the liberation and continue unifying the Black community as a whole.

On the occasion of the collective’s 50th anniversary, “AfriCOBRA: Messages to the People” brings together the founding artists with five early members, Sherman Beck, Napoleon Jones-Henderson, Omar Lama, Carolyn Mims Lawrence and Nelson Stevens, to look back at their early contributions to the shaping of AfriCOBRA while presenting the artists’ current works of art. These ten artists provided an artistic foundation from which the group evolved over time through the guiding philosophy of art for the people, art that appeals to the senses and art that is inspired by African people. The artists presented this as a unit in the exhibition “Ten in Search of a Nation” organized by the Studio Museum in Harlem.

With “Ten in Search of a Nation” as the framework, the show at MOCA introduces the foundational work of one the longest organized artist collective and the ways in which they used a visual aesthetic as a tool to act: communicate with their community, resist mainstream narratives about Black people and encourage unity through community. Through a selection of mixed-media works, installation, archival documents and photographs and oral histories, “AfriCOBRA: Messages to the People” also connects to the Miami as a place, by extending an invitation to the community to participate by sharing their stories from the Black Power period, ways in which community exists for them in the city, and stories of family.

MOCA’s hosting of AfriCOBRA reflects a new era at the museum under new Executive Director Chana Budgazad Sheldon. Presenting her first exhibition during Miami Art Week at MOCA, Sheldon’s focus is to facilitate cultural engagement and foster connection between artists, the local community and the global dialogue in contemporary art about the issues of the present day.

MOCA is situated in the heart of North Miami, which is being revitalized in part through the efforts of the North Miami Community Redevelopment Agency. In conjunction with MOCA's monthly jazz night, North Miami recently broke ground on renovations for MOCA plaza, a beautified performance and gathering space, slated to be ready in time for Miami Art Week.

“I am thrilled to have joined MOCA earlier this year,” said Sheldon. “‘AfriCOBRA: Messages to the People’ represents the museum’s mission to reflect cultural diversity with globally relevant contemporary art exhibitions. This artistic movement was a complement to the Black Power Movement that centered the liberation of Black people, taking up and extending the arms of the Civil Rights Movement. The founders, like many artists of the 1960’s and 1970’s, understood that their artistic voices could contribute to the liberation and continue unifying the Black community as a whole. MOCA is proud to bring this conversation to North Miami, especially during Miami Art Week when the eyes of the global art world are focused here.”

“AfriCOBRA: Messages to the People” Curator Jeffreen M. Hayes earned a Ph.D. in American studies from the College of William and Mary, a Master of Arts in art history from Howard University, and a Bachelor of Arts in humanities from Florida International University. She is currently the executive director of Threewalls in Chicago, and has previously worked at the Birmingham Museum of Art, Hampton University Art Museum, the Library of Congress and the National Gallery of Art. Her curatorial projects include “Intimate Interiors” (2012), “Etched in Collective History” (2013), “SILOS” (2016), “Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman” (2018), and “Process” (2019). She was a guest curator for Artpace San Antonio’s International Artist in Residence Program from May–August 2018.

“AfriCOBRA raises conversation about the struggle for liberation and equality within the Black community,” said Hayes. “AfriCOBRA is more than a collection of art, it speaks to the social and political challenges Black people still face today. Black art is significant to American culture and I am proud to bring this important topic to the forefront through this exhibition at MOCA.”

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MOCA presents "AfriCOBRA: Messages to The People" during Miami Art Week 2018

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