Curated Between The Lines, The African Lookbook By Catherine E. McKinley At The Schomburg

Catherine E. McKinley, writer and curator of The African Lookbook: A Visual History of 100 Years of African Women at the Schomburg Center for Research.

The project draws on her extensive collection of historical and contemporary photos to present a visual history spanning from 1870 to 1970.

Join the conversation with Amy Sall, founder, and editor-in-chief of SUNU Journal, as the two take a deeper look at images to tell a different story of power, self-expression, and self-determination.

Copies of The African Lookbook are available to purchase at the Schomburg Shop.

Catherine E. McKinley, writer and curator of The African Lookbook: A Visual History of 100 Years of African Women, draws on her extensive collection of historical and contemporary photos to present a visual history spanning a hundred-year arc (1870–1970) of what is among the earliest photography on the continent.

Joined by Amy Sall, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of SUNU: Journal of African Affairs, Critical Thought + Aesthetics (SUNU Journal), the two will take a deeper look at images that upend the colonial interpretation of the lives of African women, to tell a different story of power, self-expression, and self-determination through what Sall has termed the African gaze.

Featuring works by celebrated African masters, African studios of local legend, and anonymous artists, The African Lookbook captures the dignity, playfulness, austerity, grandeur, and fantasy-making of African women across centuries.

McKinley also features photos by Europeans—most starkly, striking nudes—revealing the relationships between white men and the Black female sitters where, at best, a grave power imbalance lies.

It’s a bittersweet truth that when there is exploitation there can also be profound resistance expressed in unexpected ways—even if it’s only in gazing back.

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These photos tell the story of how the sewing machine and the camera became powerful tools for women’s self-expression, revealing a truly glorious display of everyday beauty.

Readers everywhere who wish to order the book can do so online at The Schomburg Shop. All proceeds benefit The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Get the details here.

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 515 Malcolm X Blvd, Harlem, New York, https://www.nypl.org/locations/schomburg

This program will be streamed on Zoom. Please check your email shortly before the discussion to receive the link.


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Harlem World Magazine is a lifestyle and brand for anyone who has a Harlem state of mind, dedicated to news, history, the renaissance and stories that celebrate our lifestyle.

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