‘Zapantera Negra’ exhibition gives voice to disenfranchised

The College of Arts and Humanities’ Center for Creativity and the Arts and the Department of Art and Design present the exhibition “Zapantera Negra: Flower of the Word — Zapatista and Black Panther Visual Encounters of Collective Empowerment.” This exhibition will be on display from Nov. 3-19 at the Graduate Art Gallery at M Street. The opening will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Nov. 3 during ArtHop, the open house of galleries and studios in downtown Fresno and the Tower District on the first Thursday of each month.

“Zapantera Negra” highlights the works of a collective of artists lead by former minister of culture for the Black Panthers, Emory Douglas, and artist and founder of Donde Era la Uno, Caleb Duarte. “Zapantera Negra” is a series of encounters between Douglas, Duarte, artist Rigo 23, Mia Eve Rollow, Saul Kack, Zapatista women embroidery collectives, Zapatista farmers and painters, along with local artists, activists and musicians from the United States.

“Zapantera Negra” explores these questions: What is the role of revolutionary art for disenfranchised communities? How can art be a vehicle for non-violent resistance, while at the same time conveying clear and strong messages of self-determination and empowerment? These questions have been explored through the encounters between Douglas, Donde Era la Uno and Zapatista communities.

Both the Zapatista and Black Panther movements were initially militant in their approach to social change and welfare. “Zapantera Negra” explores this militancy in its visual repertoire. At the same time it transcends it as it seeks to create alternative visions for collective change. The result is an art that is bold in aesthetics as well as intentionality and lived experience.

It is also art that literally and metaphorically embodies the parallels between the Zapatistas and the Black Panthers’ use of the body politic, performance as demonstration, poetry and art as resistance. This is seen through “Zapantera Negra’s” use of Black Panther aesthetics in harmony with indigenous embroidered works, poetry as text that is reminiscent of Tzeltal and Tzotzil, Chol and other Mayan root languages, and painted images that recall Latin America’s surrealist tradition meshed with living sense of magic.

“Zapantera Negra” will consist of a cabin built and painted by local artist Ramiro Martinez. The cabin will be showcased inside the Graduate Art Gallery at M Street, and will house works made by the “Zapantera Negra” collective. Douglas and Duarte will present a lecture from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 9, in Kremen Education Room 140. There will be an artists’ reception from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 9 at the Graduate Art Gallery at M Street.

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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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