“Black Womanhood”

Hood Museum of Art

“Black Womanhood” began by presenting the racialized female body as both absence and presence: Photographs portraying a female body (in some, covered in spices; in others, as negative space surrounded by spices) hung near the entrance—documents of Berni Searle’s performance about her mixed-race heritage and the trade that instigated South Africa’s colonization (Traces, 1999). Nearby was Renée Cox’s photographic response to Ingres, wherein she arches her back on a yellow divan, flaunting naught but a fly whip and cherry heels (Baby Back, 2001). Providing a contrast to Cox’s exhibitionism, the women in Lalla Essaydi’s photographs are completely veiled behind white drapery inscribed with henna text (Les Femmes du Maroc [Moroccan Women, 2005]). Throughout the first gallery, representations of the African female body were contested and repositioned in response to Western and African stereotypes,

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