Florine Demosthene imagines a new kind of black heroine in “The Stories I Tell Myself,” on view through May 6th at Gallery 1957 in Accra, Ghana. The exhibition, which includes work created during a four-month residency with the gallery, incidentally arrives at the same time as the record-smashing Marvel Studios film, Black Panther.
That movie presents a seemingly novel concept, at least in Hollywood’s terms: black women saving men, and black people at the helm of their own wildly advanced nation. It has inspired a thousand thinkpieces, and helped the film score in excess of a billion dollars and counting at the box office. While the titular Black Panther himself might be the spotlight protagonist, it’s the leading women—Shuri, Okoye, and Nakia (inventor, soldier, and spy)—who truly run the world of Wakanda.
Demosthene’s painted and collaged black heroines, however, are even more radical. They are in possession of a striking physique: unapologetically rich in folds of flesh, yet somehow weightless. These otherworldly women hover over a dystopian world of decay and destruction; they may have the power to divine the future, move across time, heal.
“Would you be willing to suspend all your preconceived notions of what a heroine is supposed to be?” Demosthene asks me when we meet at the bar of the Kempinski Hotel, where Gallery 1957 is located.
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