The Black Panthers and the Zapatistas: An Encounter

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Emory Douglas, Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party, meets Zapatista Mayan Artist in Zapatista territory to create some ART.  

 

ZAPANTERA NEGRA

 

Zapantera Negra is a project defined by the social, cultural, and political experiences of several art activists who brought together the ideological and aesthetic frameworks of the Zapatistas and Black Panthers. The project coalesced around the alternative architectural site known as EDELO (En Donde Era La Onu) [Where the United Nations Used to Be], a centripetal community and artistic space of collective activities and freewheeling creation founded by Caleb Duarte and Mia Eve Rollow in 2009 -2014, in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, México. Zapantera Negra is now a traveling project of art exhibits and artistic workshops in collaborations with students, native american artist and communities, and cultural/educational institutions that it visits.

 

These exhibitions are a medium for those experiences as they reveal the various social spaces that are negotiated through Zapantera Negra, from the Black Arts Movement and the anticolonial, revolutionary politics of the Panthers, to indigenous cosmology and the communal struggles of the Zapatistas. Voiced and refracted through interviews and personal recollections, and depicted through poetic fantasy and artistic self-determination, the different elements of this project come together to assert an optimistic resistance to social and cultural repression, economic austerity, and police impunity. Zapantera Negra presents a heterogeneous, intergenerational road map for a transcontinental culture of creation, providing insights into the way in which different traditions of political art and social activism can be fused together in the service of emancipatory social change. 1

 

1 Excerpt from Zapantera Negra Book by Marc James Leger and David Tomas. Commun Notions Publishing NY, NY. 2017.

 

 

ProjectOverview

 

At the peak of its popularity in 1970, 139,000 copies of The Black Panther newsletter were distributed throughout the United States on a weekly basis. Within its pages, Emory

Douglas, the movement’s Minister of Culture, published his artworks in an effort to “illustrate conditions that made revolution seem necessary; and... construct a visual mythology of power for people who felt powerless and victimized.” The newsletter and its accompanying illustrations played a central role in the articulation of the “What We Want, What We Believe” portion of the Black Panther’s Ten Point Program.

 

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Hilo de Tiempo - Regina Galindo

Primer Encuentro - Expo en EDELO

Zapantera Telas

Radio KPOO San Francisco

Encuentro 3 - Pintando Auditorio con estudiantes en comunidad Zapatista 14 de Noviembre & Visita de Obantic

la ceremonia con familia Gallo de Chamula

Aureliano & Mia Eva

Encuentro 4 - La Escuelita & Pintando Tienda Zapatista en Comunidad Moises Ghandi

Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, 2014 Encuentro MANIFEST! Choreographing Social Movements in the Americas

 

Encuentro 2

Presentacion Universidad de la Tierra

Visita y creation con comunidad Autonoma Elambo Bajo

Curated by Caleb Duarte

In 1994, the Zapatista uprising, a Mexican, indigenous movement originating in the southern state of Chiapas, generated and disseminated a different sort of mass communication made possible by the rise of the Internet. Photographic, video, and written information regarding the movement’s actions spread around the world in real time,increasing awareness of the Zapatista cause while also building solidarity for what the New York Times termed “the first post-modern revolution.” Positioning itself as a struggle against neoliberalism waged against 500 years of oppression, Zapatismo has employed new technologies of information distribution in order to articulate their wants, beliefs, and various identities to themselves and to their global audience.

The Black Panther and the Zapatista movements occurred in distinct cultural, political, and historical milieus; nonetheless, the two share a common appreciation of the power of the image and the written word to build their respective social movements into personal,collective, transformative, and public experiences. In contrast to the strong self-definition established and disseminated by these two movements via pertinent media channels, today’s multimedia, plugged-in landscape seems to promote the opposite development.

Zapantera Negra gathered the visual results of four encounters, beginning in 2012 through 2016, between the Black Panthers and Zapatistas and guided by the works and presence of Emory Douglas, former Minister of Culture of the Black Panther Party. For this encounter, Emory Douglas and artist Caleb Duarte, as well as invited educators and artist, teamed up with Zapatista women embroidery collectives, Zapatista farmers and painters,and with local artists, activists and musicians to create new works that reflect and celebrate these two powerful movements.From public interventions, installations, video art, performance, mural painting, lectures, and living and working with Zapatista families, Zapantera Negra presents a collection ofworks ignited collectively by the public’s urge and necessity to demonstrate, protest, and create. And in times of much revolutionary fever and economic inequality, we feel it isimportant to share what art can and has done to create change and thus to break society’s notion of normality.

Zapantera Negra:

An Artistic Encounter Between Black Panthers and Zapatistas

 

EDITED BY MARC JAMES LÉGER AND DAVID TOMAS

 

WITH EMORY DOUGLAS, EDELO (MIA EVE ROLLOW AND CALEB DUARTE PIÑON), RIGO 23, AND SAÚL KAK

 

What is the role of revolutionary art in times of distress? When Emory Douglas, former Minister of Culture of the Black Panther Party, accepted an invitation from the art collective EDELO and the Rigo 23 to meet with autonomous Indigenous and Zapatista communities in Chiapas, Mexico, they addressed just this question. Zapantera Negra is the result of their encounter. It unites the bold aesthetics, revolutionary dreams, and dignified declarations of two leading movements that redefine emancipatory politics in the twentieth and twenty-first century.

 

The artists of the Black Panthers and the Zapatistas were born into a centuries-long struggle against racial capitalism and colonialism, state repression and international war and plunder. Not only did these two movements offer the world an enduring image of freedom and dignified rebellion, they did so with rebellious style, putting culture and aesthetics at the forefront of political life. A powerful elixir of hope and determination, Zapantera Negra provides a galvanizing presentation of interviews, militant artwork, and original documents from these two movements’ struggle for dignity and liberation.

 

“Zapantera Negra is an incredible endeavor, the depth of which is not often found in social practice: a direct and embodied connection between a key actor in a major social movement in US history (the Black Panthers) and the people of Chiapas, carrying the legacy and expressions of an equally revolutionary struggle in Mexico (the Zapatistas), some thirty years apart. The subtlety and complexity of this project, and its implications for a globally engaged arts-based activism is truly impressive.”

—Suzanne Lacy, artist and author of Leaving Art and Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art

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