Visual Images of the Postcolonial Blues on the Corner of Toulouse and Royal: Discord and Identity in Songs of My People
Helán E. Page with D. France Olivieira
Songs of My People ( 1992) is a book of photographic images edited by Eric Easter , D. Michael Cheers, and Dudley M. Brooks, three African-American associates of New African Visions Incorporated. 1 This project was organized into a traveling museum exhibition that began its three-year national tour in January 1992. How should we read these images? What are their humanscapes trying to tell us about African America? What claims do they make about the identity, status, and well-being of black people in America today? In whose interest does the mass audience's resistance or receptivity to their embedded messages shift the balance of power in the relations of cultural production? In this chapter, Page ethnographically examines a set of black visual images and the relations of production that serve the nation by generating that imagery. Page also examines the mediated construction of black identity. Our focus is on how such organizations and their representatives behave when trying to intersect. We infer that the editor/organizers of Songs of My People wanted to succeed in their organizational endeavor and relied on their project to counter "negative" mainstream representations with images popularly deemed more "positive" about African Americans.
While warranting acclaim for its aesthetic appeal, this exceedingly popular collection of black visual imagery ( Songs of My People) is not only being circulated in book form, but also its editors sold corporate and federal sponsors the idea that this project should be organized into a traveling museum exhibition that began its three-year national tour in January of 1992. 2 We believe that anthropology is prepared to address questions adequately about the generation