Black, Brown, & Beige: Surrealist Writings from Africa and the Diaspora

Black, Brown, & Beige: Surrealist Writings from Africa and the Diaspora

Black, Brown, & Beige: Surrealist Writings from Africa and the Diaspora

Black, Brown, & Beige: Surrealist Writings from Africa and the Diaspora

Synopsis

Surrealism as a movement has always resisted the efforts of critics to confine it to any static definition--surrealists themselves have always preferred to speak of it in terms of dynamics, dialectics, goals, and struggles. Accordingly, surrealist groups have always encouraged and exemplified the widest diversity--from its start the movement was emphatically opposed to racism and colonialism, and it embraced thinkers from every race and nation.

Yet in the vast critical literature on surrealism, all but a few black poets have been invisible. Academic histories and anthologies typically, but very wrongly, persist in conveying surrealism as an all-white movement, like other "artistic schools" of European origin. In glaring contrast, the many publications of the international surrealist movement have regularly featured texts and reproductions of works by comrades from Martinique, Haiti, Cuba, Puerto Rico, South America, the United States, and other lands. Some of these publications are readily available to researchers; others are not, and a few fall outside academia's narrow definition of surrealism.

This collection is the first to document the extensive participation of people of African descent in the international surrealist movement over the past seventy-five years. Editors Franklin Rosemont and Robin D. G. Kelley aim to introduce readers to the black, brown, and beige surrealists of the world--to provide sketches of their overlooked lives and deeds as well as their important place in history, especially the history of surrealism.

Excerpt

Only poets, since they must excavate and recreate history,
have ever learned anything from it.

—James Baldwin

In the vast critical literature on surrealism, all but a few black surrealists have been invisible. Despite mounting studies of Aimé Césaire, Wifredo Lam, Ted Joans, and, more recently, Jayne Cortez, academic histories and anthologies typically, but very wrongly, persist in conveying surrealism as an all-white movement, like other “artistic schools” of European origin. Occasional token mentions aside, people of color—and more particularly those from Africa or the Diaspora—have been excluded from most of the so-called standard works on the subject.

In glaring contrast, the many publications of the international surrealist movement—periodicals, books, pamphlets, exhibition catalogs, and anthologies produced by the surrealists themselves—regularly feature texts and reproductions of works by black comrades from Martinique, Haiti, Cuba, Puerto Rico, South America, Africa, the United States, and other lands. These publications, moreover, are readily available to researchers at numerous libraries. Inaccessibility, therefore, is not a legitimate excuse for exclusion.

It is the aim of this book to introduce readers to the black surrealists of the world; to provide sketches of their lives and deeds as well as their important place in history, especially the history of surrealism; and, not least, to present a selection of their writings and art.

The surrealist movement began as a spontaneous association, based on elective affinities, and that is what it has always been and still is. Abjuring, on principle, all proselytizing and recruitment, it has never entertained the aim of being a mass movement. Indeed, surrealism has always been determinedly minoritary: French poet André Breton—its cofounder, author of the Surrealist Manifestoes, and first major theorist—described surrealism as a minority always “tending . . .

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