How are African Americans seen in Japan

African diaspora in Germany

Christiane Della

To person

Christiane Della studied art education in Frankfurt / Main. Since 1987 she has been a member of the "Initiative Schwarzer Menschen in Deutschland" (ISD) and volunteer for community projects (since 2000 "Sankofa-Feriendorf"). Her other activities include the seminar and documentation "Black Artists in Germany Today".

The works of visual artists are exciting, indispensable for the black people in this country. They give expression to the experiences of a generation that has hitherto seen itself as an isolated minority without history. Black artists are now represented at international events and have found their place in the galleries.

Stephen Lawson, sculpture "Reflecting Being" (& copy Stephen Lawson)

Communication and mobility

Exhibitions and events over the past 10 years show a wider range of black artists than ever before. Whether in painting, photography, sculpture, performance or video art - every genre has individual black protagonists. They are represented at international art events and have their place in the local galleries. As artists from Africa, America or the Caribbean, you are asked about topics such as: the situation of minorities, multiculturalism, identity.

Communication and information technologies enable unprecedented access to sources. Artists have the opportunity to exchange ideas with colleagues and follow current discussions, regardless of the corner of the world, as long as the technical and economic requirements, adequate schooling and a certain enthusiasm for technology are given. [1]

The fruitful exchange has a tradition in Western art in the form of artist groups and artist colonies. In addition to privilege, it requires a high degree of willingness to travel. This mobility is difficult to achieve for artists from the periphery, but so far traveling and moving to the economic centers has been indispensable for recognition on the transatlantic art market. A growing number of artists with multiple identities who create their art against the background of experience of a worldwide diaspora have at least largely freed these artists from the restrictive question of authenticity or ethnicity.

Departure for cultural recognition

The western urge for appropriation in art initially related primarily to borrowings from the formal language of objects from non-European cultures, to Japanese drawings or African sculptures. It expanded from subjects of these regions to artists themselves. Europeans now went to the southern hemisphere with a corresponding range of courses in search of unspent talent. Since the early 1960s, individual African artists have gained international fame as representatives of "workshop art". In the culturally agile Oshogbo (Duro Lapido Theater, Mbari Mbayo Klub) young Nigerians came to the medium of painting and Jacob Afolabi, Rufus Ogundele and Twin Seven-Seven soon made a name for themselves. Initiated and discovered for a Western clientele (there was hardly any other available to the artists), the selection of works was largely tied to ethnographic expectations.


The one-sided picking up of isolated art from the periphery still prevailed at "documenta IX", but was already welcomed there as a departure towards a more true internationality. The sculptor Mo Edoga was one of the artists who spread this new flair over Kassel. His sculpture "Signal Tower of Hope" was created during "documenta IX". Today Edoga is back in the headlines - as a victim of conservative narrow-mindedness. His artistic work for his hometown Mannheim was recently discredited when the CDU asked the local council whether he was a German citizen or whether his residence permit would be checked.