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Art, Music, & Pop Culture

The role of artists in society has always been important. Artists raise awareness about social issues and are often the register of the times. They can reinforce the status quo or they can serve as a catalyst for change. Popular Culture often illuminates where we are all are as a people and a species. We invite critical essays and thinking on art of all types today in the US and abroad.

Michael and the Motherland: Reflections on an African American Icon and His Influence in Africa

By Stephanie Shonekan, Contributing Editor, Art, Music, and Pop Culture

If African American musical culture is a stream flowing into Africa during the twentieth century, Michael Jackson represents the watershed because he was a significant and perplexing icon of pop superstardom, a gateway to not only the music, but also the identity of African Americans. As a young Nigerian growing up in the 70s and 80s, I was among millions of other youth who were attracted to what we thought was the very essence of African American identity through the music we heard on the radio and watched on television shows like Soul Train.

Jackson’s music and performance laid an important precedent for twenty-first century African American artists who are extremely popular in Africa and are able to charge top dollar for tickets when visiting African countries today. Artists like Lionel Richie, Erykah Badu, Chris Brown, Rick Ross, Beyoncé, and Jay-Z perform for African audiences who pay ticket prices that range from $100-$300. Each of these artists should thank Michael Jackson for blasting open the doors to a receptive and lucrative African audience.

For decades these audiences were mesmerized by Jackson to such an extent that several impersonators appeared throughout the 1990s. The day after Jackson died in June 2009, Nigerian performer and Michael Jackson impersonator Michael Eze Chikaria, also known as “Walko Chilko,” was quoted in a local newspaper:

Michael as a human being had everything it takes to be a superstar and every step he made was so unique and enticing that everybody knew that he was incredible and that is what I am too… Everything about Michael is me….People are saying that I look and dress like him…and that I could actually be a replacement for him, though coming from Africa; his ancestral home.

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Lupita: One Small Step for Dark Girls?

Featured

By Stephanie Shonekan, Contributing Editor, Art, Music & Pop Culture In the week of April 21, 2014 People Magazine announced their long anticipated choice of “Most Beautiful Woman” Lupita Nyongo. It was not unexpected because the Kenyan actress had become … Continue reading

Pratibha Parmar Brings Alice Walker’s Art to Life

Repost from Women in the World. Samina Ali interviews Pratibha Parmar, who most recently directed Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth, celebrating the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Parmar speaks about retelling Walker’s words. Read more at … Continue reading

New Africa Center Launches in Style

The New Africa Center, formerly known as the Museum for African Art, threw itself a grand launch party last Thursday in Harlem.  The new institution will continue to focus on art, but also on the pressing issues and opportunities of … Continue reading