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May 9 – August 23, 2009
The African Presence in México: From Yanga to the Present
Great Hall High Bay
Presented by the Art/Education Departments

African Presence
Image concept & design: Angelina Villanueva. Courtesy National Museum of Mexican Art Chicago.

The Oakland Museum of California presents The African Presence in México: From Yanga to the Present, a look at the little-known history of enslaved Africans brought to Mexico in the 1500s and their contributions to Mexican culture. Organized by the National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago, the exhibition opens May 9 and continues through Aug 23, 2009.

For nearly 500 years the existence and influence of the African descendants in Mexico have been overlooked. The African Presence in México: Yanga to the Present traces how Africans---less than two per cent of colonial Mexico's (1521-1810) population---significantly enriched Mexican culture through their art, music, language, cuisine, and dance.

"The exhibition invites Mexican-Americans and African-Americans to look at their identities in light of their shared histories in Mexico and the United States," says Cultural Arts Developer Evelyn Orantes, co-curator, with Chief Curator of Art Philip Linhares, of the Oakland installation.

"African Presence in México also allows Americans to better understand the complexity of race issues in the U.S. and Mexico," she said. The Spanish first brought Africans to Mexico in 1519 to labor in the agrarian and silver industries, under often brutal conditions. There were constant slave protests and runaways (cimarrones), who established settlements in the mountains of Orizaba.

In January 1609, Yanga, a runaway slave elder, led the cimarrones to successful resistance against a special army sent by the Spanish Crown to crush their actions. After several cimarrón victories the Spanish acquiesced to the slaves' demand for land and freedom. Yanga founded the first free African township in the Americas, San Lorenzo de los Negros, near Veracruz. It was renamed in his honor in the 1930s.

Slavery in Mexico was abolished in 1810 by Jose María Morelos y Pavón, leader of the Mexican War of Independence. As a mulatto (Spanish and African), Morelos was directly affected by Mexico's prejudices. Racial mixes
José Justo Montiel, Portrait of a Young Black Man Smopking, Homehalca, Orizaba, Veracruz / Negrito fumando, Homehalca, Orizaba, Veracruz, 1868, oil on canvas / óleo sobre tela, 29 ½” x 20 ½”, Collection of La Universidad Veracruzana, Xalapa, Veracruz.d
were seen as undesirable by a society that aspired to purity of race and blood; i.e., Spanish only.

In 1992, as part of the 500th anniversary of the arrival (encuentro) of the Spanish in the Americas, the Mexican government officially acknowledged that the African culture represented la tercera raiz (the third root) of Mexican culture, with the Spanish and indigenous peoples.

The bilingual exhibition features paintings, prints, movie posters, photographs, sculpture, costumes, masks, and musical instruments. "It's a fascinating hybrid---a visual arts exhibition based on a cultural history," says co-curator Orantes.

An ad hoc group from the museum's African-American and Latino advisory councils, local artists, academics, and community members was created for the The African Presence in México exhibition. The representatives have helped identify community issues and interests for educational programs and performances to accompany the show.

All programs are included with museum admission except June 14, which is free.

Saturday, May 9, 12- 4 p.m.
The African Presence in México Community Opening
. Cascada de Flores performs "The Tree and the Donkey Who Wanted to Sing," a story that embraces the diversity of indigenous, Spanish, and African roots in traditional Mexican music and dance. Enjoy the rhythms of Africa as Diamano Coura jams with Cascada de Flores and a slide presentation with co-curator Cesáreo Moreno.

Sunday, May 17, 2- 4 p.m.
Art and Constructs of Race: Casta Paintings and Contemporary Conversations about Identity.
Art historian Charlene Villaseñor Black discusses the social and historical relevance of the caste paintings in the exhibition. Testimonials from UC Berkeley's Afro-Latino Working group, spoken word, and poetry address identity, culture, and stereotypes.

Saturday, May 23, 2-5 p.m.
2 p.m. Curator Tour
. Tour the exhibition with Chief Curator of Art Philip Linhares.
3 p.m. Scholars Café. An in-depth dialogue about the scholarship involved in the making of The African Presence in Mexico with scholars Carlos Munoz, Jr., Ted Vincent, Betita Martinez, and radio host Chuy Varela.

Sunday, May 24, 2 p.m.
Join a museum docent tour and learn more about the exhibition.

Friday, June 5, 7 p.m.
Confound, Confront, and Connect: A Discussion of the Work of Photographer Tony Gleaton
. Gleaton talks about his photographs in the exhibition and his experiences documenting Afro-Mexican communities. Part of OMCA's First Fridays After Five.

Sunday, June 14, 2 p.m.
Join a museum docent and learn more about The African Presence in México. Free Second Sunday sponsored by Wells Fargo, City of Oakland, and the Oakland Museum Women's Board.

Friday, July 3, 7-9 p.m.
An evening of films that explore the African presence in Mexican films: The Forgotten Root/La Raiz Olvidada by Rafael Rebollar Corona (Spanish with English subtitles); The Third Root by Reed Rickert and Camilo Nu; film clips of singer Toña La Negra, with Chuy Varela. Take a 6 p.m. tour of The African Presence in México with co-curator Evelyn Orantes. Part of OMCA's First Fridays After Five.

Sunday, July 19 12- 4 p.m.
Artists in Action: Art and Music Jam. Favianna Rodriguez, Visual Element, and musician and ethnic studies professor José Cuellar (Dr. Loco and his Rocking Jalapeño Band) create art and music around the themes of African American and Latino unity.

Sunday, July 19, 2 p.m.
Join a museum docent and learn more about The African Presence in México.

Saturday, August 1, 7 p.m.
The African Presence in México Through Music
. Son de la Tierra and Los Utrera, visiting musicians from Mexico bring you the African Presence in Mexico through music. Presented in collaboration with East Bay Center for Performing Artsand the Consulate General of Mexico, and sponsored by Volaris. Tickets $10/$9 Members.

Sunday, August 2, 12-4 p.m.
Yanga Celebration. In Yanga, Mexico, the first "free town of the Americas," Carnaval is dedicated to black African culture. Celebrate this tradition at the museum. Presented in collaboration with the East Bay Center for Performing Arts and the Consulate General of Mexico, and sponsored by Volaris.

The exhibition was curated by Sagrario Cruz-Carretero of the University of Veracruz and Cesáreo Moreno, visual arts director at the National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago. Moreno will offer a slide presentation at the community opening, Saturday, May 9, 12-4 p.m.

The Oakland exhibition of The African Presence in México: From Yanga to the Present was funded by part by the generous support of the Oakland Museum Women's Board, among others. The exhibition is organized by the National Museum of Mexican Art; its sponsors are Wallace Foundation, Ford Foundation, Nathan Cummings Foundation, and American Airlines.




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