Between African Sculpture and Black Diasporic Experiences: Hugh Hayden and Simone Leigh

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In this article, I consider the work of Hugh Hayden and Simone Leigh, specifically the parallel they create between the colonial pillaging and displacement of African sculpture to Europe and North America and the forced diaspora of slavery and its afterlives in the United States. I set their practices against a background of twentieth-century engagements with African sculptural traditions by European and African American artists and theorists. I argue that there has been a recent turn toward the material lives of African sculptural objects and the contexts of violence through which they were acquired by Western institutions. Hayden and Leigh make use of these associations to convey the experience of the Middle Passage, slavery, and its afterlives in the United States, but also a past that cannot be reassembled due to these events. Rather than an atavistic return to origins, their work demonstrates the remapping of cultural production in the New World, and, in the case of Leigh, these concerns are specifically addressed with regards to the labor of Black women.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70–83
Number of pages14
JournalAfrican Arts
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2022

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