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La Tiendita Zapatista. Moises Ghandi. Rumbo a Oxchuc, Chiapas Mexico.2013
Morelia, Chiapas. Escuelita 23 de Noviembre. Con estudiantes y artistas locals y internacionales. 2012
Zapantera Negra Expo 2012 - CompArte Festival 2016. EDELO y Oventic.
RIGHT Canada Monterial con Instituto Centro Hemisferico Encuentro 2014.
BOTTOM. Primer encuentro 2012.
Manik B Zapantera 2013 Video Carala Astarga 2012
Deseño Gran Om. 2012.
AN Artistic Encounter Between Black Panthers and Zapatistas
Published by Common Notions
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.
PRAISE FOR ZAPANTERA NEGRA
“Zapantera Negra is a rare document from the US and Mexico that intertwines art, dialogues, and processes between artists and cultural spaces that open collaborative intersections of politics and creation far outside the confines of art as commerce and rigid politics. Blending striking images and personal stories of the Black Panther Party and the Zapatistas, the book spans revolutionary tendencies and histories rooted in collective liberation. With hope and determination, Zapantera Negra shows us the power that art has to seed flowers that push through concrete, dissolve static confines, and open liberatory possibilities for living unwritten futures.”
—scott crow, author of Black Flags and Windmills: Hope, Anarchy and the Common Ground Collective and Emergency Hearts, Molotov Dreams
“With a generous spirit of dialogue and inquiry, Zapantera Negra sparkles! It usefully brings together Black Panther Party and Zapatista political-aesthetic sensibilities, and it opens up wonderful questions that blur the lines between art and activism. In a time of resurgent Indigenous and Black freedom struggles in North America, this book offers inspiration for building transformative movements with vitality and vision.”
—Chris Dixon, activist and author of Another Politics: Talking Across Today’s Transformative Movements
“Zapantera Negra provides a stunning display of why art is not just helpful but also utterly necessary to humanity’s efforts to achieve justice. This book provides a journey of heart and mind through the relationship of two critically important movements and, extending around it all, the depth and power of national liberation and internationalism. As I read Zapantera Negra, I felt fortunate to be able to witness these cultural creations and conversations, and to hold in my hands a history that goes beyond words and teaches truth through the alchemy of revolutionary art.”
—Laura Whitehorn, former political prisoner and editor of The War Before: The True Life Story of Becoming a Black Panther, Keeping the Faith in Prison, and Fighting for Those Left Behind by the late Safiya Bukhari
“Zapantera Negra is a book of encounters—between Zapatismo and the Black Panther Party, art and politics, revolution and everyday life, and the histories and horizons of radical social justice struggles. Léger and Tomas deftly curate this engaging and important work, exploring urgent and enduring questions relating to radical politics, the fabric of daily life, and art as a medium for social justice and social change. Orbiting around a series of provocative and lively dialogues, this book embodies the spirit and politics of encuentro.”
—Alex Khasnabish, author of Zapatistas: Rebellion from the Grassroots to the Global and Zapatismo Beyond Borders: New Imaginations of Political Possibility
“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
“In a place called EDELO (En Donde Era la ONU), ‘where the United Nations used to be’, somewhere in the Mexican southeast, Zapantera Negra kindled the Black Panther spirit from a caracol in a river that runs through history—a river that runs below ground for years, for entire centuries, and then rages to the surface or trickles up through the earth’s rhizomes and roots. This art is urgent and inventive, an art of uniting peoples, an art of struggle born out of a moment in time, years, even centuries in the making. Que viva la Zapantera Negra!”
—Jeff Conant, author of A Poetics of Resistance: The Revolutionary Public Relations of the Zapatista Insurgency
“This collaboration reflects the brilliant echoes of 500 years of resistance. From the Seminole swamps to the Southwest plains, Black and Brown hands reach together to build liberation dreams against the nightmares of racism, war, and colonialism. The depictions found in Zapantera Negra—the magic of Black church women and las mujeres campesinos; children wise beyond years and adults following their lead—show communities in struggle challenging Empire from below and to the left. By drawing out Black and Indigenous liberatory politics and the need for spaces to resist, conspire, and inspire, this is a more than a book—it is a call to home.”
—Kazembe Balagoon, writer, cultural activist, and Project Manager at the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, New York Office.
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.
These exhibitions have become 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.
In 1994 the Zapatista uprising, a Mexican indigenous movement from the southern state of Chiapas, produced and leveraged a different form of mass communication with the use of images, the body, and instant communication through the use of the Internet. The distribution of actions, images and video spread throughout the world in real time, bringing awareness while building solidarity for what the New York Times called “the first post-modern revolution.” Positioning itself as a struggle against neoliberalism and 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 their global audience.
In the Fall of 2009, over one hundred displaced indigenous community members occupied the offices of the United Nations, located in San Cristóbal de las Casa, Chiapas, Mexico. The offices were taken over in the hope of gaining international attention from humanitarian organizations. After a few months of the occupation, the United Nations simply decided to find another building and moved.
A few months later, Mia Eva and myself, disillusioned with institutional art, wished to believe that art could be a radical form of communication, and soon moved into the building and began an experimental art space and an international artist residency of diverse practice. We began to invite artists, activists, cultural workers, inventors, gardeners, PhDs, jugglers, and educators to take part in creating an experiment in art and social change. This group of artists, disenchanted by the continuing linear path of art history, came to EDELO (En Donde Era la ONU / Where the United Nations Used to BE) in favor of art as a vehicle for possible transformation.
Inspired by the 1994 indigenous Zapatista uprising, where word and poetry are used to inspire a generation to imagine ‘other’ possible worlds, EDELO has retained the name of the UN office. It is a part of an investigation into how Art, in all its disciplines and contradictions, can take the supposed role of such institutional bodies to create understanding, empathy, and to serve as a tool for imagining alternatives to a harmful and violent system that we do not have to accept.
Zapantera Negra gathered the visual results of four encounters, beginning in 2012 and ending in 2014, 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 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. Each movement presents a distinct position in terms of cultural and political milieus, yet both build from a shared understanding of the power of art. From public interventions, installations, video art, performance, mural painting, lectures, and living and working with Zapatista families, Zapantera Negra presents a collection of works 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 is important to share what art can and has done to create change and thus to break society’s notion of normality.
Such a radical break is presented by the creation of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in 1966 and the artworks creted by Emory Douglas for its newspaper. At its peak in 1970, 400,000 copies of The Black Panther newsletter were distributed weekly throughout the United States on a weekly basis. Within its pages, Emory Douglas, published his artworks in an effort to “illustrate conditions that made revolution seem necessary [and to] 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. The BPP newspaper helped to establishing a Black Panther aesthetic of Black Power and Revolution.
Although the Black Panther and the Zapatista movements occurred in distinct cultural, political, and historical milieu, the two share a common appreciation of the power of the image and the written word to translate 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 process. As opposed to contemporary ‘high art’ practices taught by leading institutions, Zapantera Negra is a project that demonstrates how contemporary art practices can sidestep conventional political and conceptual performative works by working in communities of struggle from the ground up. This is a grassroots effort to bring together two very powerful visual and political social movements.
An Artistic Encounter Between Black Panthers and Zapatistas.