Thursday, January 19, 2017

The 369th Experience

Last Tuesday, Tom and I gave a presentation called "African-American Presence in the City of Light" at Adrian Leeds' well-known monthly Parler Paris event.

Slide from presentation
© Adrian Leeds

Tom spoke about the Entrée to Black Paris tour that he created - Black History in and around the Luxembourg Garden. Because he begins the walk with stories about how James Reese Europe and the 369th Infantry Regiment (better known as the Harlem Hellfighters) introduced jazz to France during World War I, he talked about Europe at some length during the Parler Paris presentation.

James Reese Europe and the Harlem Hellfighters
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Later during the afternoon, another invited speaker shared some fascinating information about the 369th Infantry Regiment with the audience. Stephany Neal told us that the infantry's band is going to be recreated as part of a series of events endorsed by the World War I Centennial Commission to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I!

Stephany Neal at Parler Paris
© Adrian Leeds

Students from 107 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other colleges and universities across America will be selected to join the band through a competitive search and audition. They will perform in a series of national and international programs and musical events to honor the men who fought during the war. Proposed international performances in France will retrace the 369th campaign with concerts in Brest, Argonne, Chateau Thierry, St. Mihiel, Champagne, Vosges, Metz, and yes, PARIS.

The project is an educational initiative that includes master classes conducted by celebrity guest performing artists. Dr. Julian E. White, retired director of the Florida A&M University Marching 100 band, will recreate the 369th's complete repertoire for the project.

369th Experience Press Packet
© Adrian Leeds

Another proposed production for the initiative is a traveling exhibition of WWI paintings and military ephemera. Works by African-American artists such as Henry O. Tanner, Palmer Hayden, Nancy Prophet, Loïs Mailou Jones, and Albert Alexander Smith will be displayed. The military ephemera belong to the collection of Alan Laird, an African-American Vietnam War veteran. Items in the collection include historical records, vintage photographs, war art, and vintage print media.

The McDowell County Museum Commission (Kimball World War One Memorial) and S&D Consulting Services are organizing The 369th Experience. To learn more about it, visit the Web site at or call 1-855-GIVE 369 (1-855-448-3369).


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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Soul Food in Paris

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when the mention of soul food in Paris conjured up images of Leroy Haynes in the kitchen at his restaurant on rue Clauzel or of happy diners crowded around tables at Bojangles (Sharon Leslie Morgan - owner) or Percy's Place (Percy Taylor - owner).

Leroy Haynes in the kitchen at
Haynes' Restaurant
Screenshot from video

Bojangles façade
© Discover Paris!

Percy Taylor in front of Percy's Place
© Discover Paris!

All of these establishments closed in the 2000s.

Today, the "soul food" moniker is making a comeback at the following Paris eateries:
  • New Soul Food
  • Gumbo Yaya Soul Food Waffle House
  • Mama Jackson Soul Food Kitchen
A few additional establishments include a single "soul food" item on their menu.

But is what these businesses serve really soul food, as Americans think of it?

New Soul Food is a food truck that serves Afro-European and Afro-Caribbean fusion cuisine. It can frequently be found at the MK2 Bibliothèque in the 13th arrondissement, near the National Library. The only thing on their menu that looks remotely like food from the American South is sweet potatoes, and they are described as being sauteed with Afro-Caribbean herbs.

New Soul Food food truck
Image from New Soul Food Web site

Sojourner Ahébée, the Wells International Foundation's 2016 summer intern, visited Gumbo Yaya last August and tried their chicken and waffles. Comparing the fried chicken to what her maternal grandmother Sallie McBride from North Carolina makes, she declared Gumbo Yaya's version to be authentic and good (though not as good as her grandma's)!

Gumbo Yaya façade
© Sojourner Ahébée

As for Mama Jackson Soul Food Kitchen, it calls itself a soul food bistrot, where its clientele can discover the classics of African-American cuisine. Their menu includes fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, crispy fried fish, rice and beans, and cornbread and they advertise that you can enjoy hip hop, jazz, and soul music there. From what I've seen on Facebook (they do not yet have a Web site), they are doing quite well. They apparently don't take reservations and more than one person has complained of not being able to get a table.

Mama Jackson Soul Food Kitche
Mama Jackson press image

I've not had the opportunity to visit any of these places, but I'm definitely going to try them over the next several weeks to months. When I do, I'll be sure to post my reviews here!


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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Kehinde Wiley at the Petit Palais

When I wrote about the black images in European art at the Petit Palais in late 2015, I never dreamed that I'd be able to write an article about an exhibition of works by a person of African descent being shown at the same institution. So I am pleased to be able to report on the Kehinde Wiley exhibition, Lamentation, that is currently on display.

Much of the press about the show, and even the information presented at the museum itself, indicates that Lamentation contains ten works by Wiley. In fact, there are only nine - three oil paintings and six stained glass windows. But no matter - they are well worth a visit to this beautiful museum, which is located just off the Champs Elysées.

Petit Palais
© Discover Paris!

Lamentation banner - Petit Palais façade
© Discover Paris!

From the Petit Palais information card:
Kehinde Wiley continues his exploration of religious iconography at the Petit Palais.

By focusing on the story of Christ and his relationship with his mother, the Virgin Mary, he is initiating a thought-provoking conversation about masculinity.

The previously unseen series of six stained glass windows exhibited at the heart of the large format gallery center on the figure of a young Christ: the artist moves beyond the religious context to explore the expression of his vulnerability - the vulnerability of the dead child and the adult Christ.

The six stained glass windows are displayed in a hexagonal structure at the rear of the "Large Format Gallery." They are found between the majestic The Funeral Day, a Scene from Morocco by Jean-Joseph Benjamin Constant and several works with religious themes, such as Gustave Doré's The Ascension and William Bouguereau's The Virgin with Angels.

Lamentations stained glass window display
© Discover Paris!

Each window portrays an adult holding a child. Though three of the adults are men, the names of these works indicate that the man represents Mary, Mother of God. In the works entitled Mary, Comforter of the Afflicted I and Mary, Comforter of the Afflicted II, the man carries a dead child.

Mary, Comforter of the Afflicted II (detail)
2016 Stained glass and aluminum frame
© Discover Paris!

Downstairs, a room is dedicated to three monumental oil paintings that complement the stained glass windows.

Lamentations oil paintings
© Discover Paris!

From the Petit Palais information card:
Together these works offer a bodily representation of the Christ figure. By choosing to focus on the body, the most concrete and vulnerable, if not animal, aspect of his "personality", Kehinde Wiley takes a highly contemporary approach to reviving the debate of the divine or human nature of Christ, the eternal dichotomy between body and mind.

The signature piece of the exhibition, Lamentation, is found here.

2016 Oil on canvas
© Discover Paris!

Wiley has indeed focused on the "body of Christ" in these works, rendering each subject with anatomic precision.

Lamentation (detail)
2016 Oil on canvas
© Discover Paris!

In Christ after Lady Macbeth I and Christ after Lady Macbeth II, one can easily imagine that the Christ figure was a bodybuilder.

Christ after Lady Macbeth II
2016 Oil on canvas
© Discover Paris!

Christ after Lady Macbeth II (detail)
2016 Oil on canvas
© Discover Paris!

Only a few days remain to see this exhibition. It closes on January 15.

Petit Palais
Avenue Winston Churchill
75008 Paris
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday from 10 AM to 6 PM. Closed Mondays.
Entry to the Kehinde Wiley exhibition is free.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Color Line - Part 2

Last week, I presented a detailed overview of the Musée du quai Branly's exhibition, The Color Line.

Today, I'm featuring the women artists whose work is shown there.

They are:
  • Elizabeth Catlett
  • Barbara Chase-Riboud
  • Loïs Mailou Jones
  • Edmonia Lewis
  • Faith Ringgold
  • Betty Saar
  • Augusta Savage
  • Alma Thomas
  • Mickaline Thomas

Elizabeth Catlett has the greatest number of pieces in the show - 16 linocuts and two sculptures. Her 15-piece linocut series entitled I am the Negro Woman and her bronze sculpture entitled Woman Walking (Standing Woman) can be found in a dedicated room.

I am the Negro Woman series
Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012)
1947 Linocut on paper
© Discover Paris!

Woman Walking (Standing Woman)
Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012)
1987 Bronze
© Discover Paris!

These works are on loan from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, PA.

Three sculptors – Edmonia Lewis, Augusta Savage, and Barbara Chase-Riboud – have works represented in the exhibition in various ways.

Edmonia Lewis' magnificent marble creation, Forever Free, is shown in a short, silent video clip from a television documentary entitled Noire est la Couleur (Black is the Color) that was produced by Arté France, Les Films d'Ici, and Bachibouzouk to coincide with the exhibition's run.

Frame of Forever Free segment of Noire est la Couleur
Sculpture by Edmonia Lewis (1844-1907)
1867 Marble
Howard University Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
© Discover Paris!

A small bronze reproduction of Augusta Savage's monumental sculpture Lift Every Voice and Sing (The Harp) can be seen, but not photographed, at the exhibition. Nearby are images from the April 1939 edition of The Crisis magazine that show Savage creating the sculpture and the work itself on the cover.

Image of Augusta Savage (1892-1962) working on The Harp
The Crisis - April 1939
Photo © Discover Paris!

Image of The Harp
Cover of The Crisis - April 1939
Photo © Discover Paris!

Savage created Lift Every Voice and Sing (The Harp) in plaster for the 1939 World's Fair in New York. It was destroyed after the fair closed.

Barbara Chase-Riboud's Malcolm X #13 stands regally in the "Black is Beautiful: Black Power, Black Muslims, Black Panthers" section of the exhibition.

Malcolm X #13
Barbara Chase-Riboud (1939-)
2008 Black bronze, silk, wool, linen, and synthetic fibers
Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York
© Discover Paris!

Elizabeth Catlett's sculpture, Homage to Black Women Poets, her linocut entitled Malcolm X Speaks for Us, and Betty Saar's mixed media work, Equality, are also found in this section.

Faith Ringgold, Alma Thomas, Mickalene Thomas, and Loïs Mailou Jones each have a single painting in the exhibition. I found Jones' Mob Victim (Meditation) to be the most compelling. You will find it in the "Lynching" section of the exhibition.

Mob Victim (Meditation)
Loïs Mailou Jones (1905-1998)
1944 Oil on canvas
Stella Jones Gallery, New Orleans, LA
© Discover Paris!

A 2010 article in the Washington Post gives a bit of background on this work, which was selected as one of the four to be included in The Color Line's "Please Do Touch" section for visually-impaired visitors.

The paintings by Alma Thomas (March on Washington), Faith Ringgold (The American Collection #1: We Came to America), and Mickalene Thomas (Origin of the Universe I), as well as the mixed media work entitled Black Crows in the White Section Only by Betty Saar are located in the "On the Way to "Civil Rights" and "Contemporaries and African-Americans" sections.

Fewer than 30 days remain to visit this exhibition - it closes on January 15, 2017. If you're in Paris, get over to the Musée du quai Branly and see it!

The Color Line

Musée du quai Branly Jacques Chirac
37, quai Branly
75007 Paris
Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday - 11 AM to 7 PM; Thursday through Saturday - 11 AM to 9 PM. Closed Mondays.
Entry fee: 10€
Reduced fee: 7€


Entrée to Black Paris™ is a Discover Paris! blog.