Black Image Corporation

Artist and UChicago faculty member Theaster Gates and art historian Romi Crawford are brought together through a shared engagement with archival photographs made of and by black people, the deployment of which has rarely been controlled by black people. This Gray Center Mellon Collaborative Fellowship aims to redeploy the black image aesthetically, historically, economically, and for the public. 

Artist and UChicago faculty member Theaster Gates and art historian Romi Crawford are brought together through a shared engagement with archival photographs made of and by Black people, the deployment of which has rarely been controlled by Black people. This Gray Center Mellon Collaborative Fellowship aims to activate and turn on a Black photographic archive by redeploying the Black image aesthetically, historically, economically, and for the public. 

As part of their Fellowship, Crawford and Gates co-curated K. Kofi Moyo and FESTAC ‘77: The Activation of a Black Archive (opening February 2021), an exhibition at the Logan Center for the Arts, in partnership with Danielle Wright, Assistant Curator, and Alyssa Brubaker, Exhibitions Manager. K. Kofi Moyo and FESTAC ’77: The Activation of a Black Archive resituates, and also finds a place for, a cache of images from the archive of Karega Kofi Moyo, a Chicago-based photographer active between 1968 and 1978, a pivotal time for Black liberation and cultural production. Notably, the Moyo repository, replete with images of Black political, social, and cultural life from that period, includes images that refer back to an auspicious 1977 event for Black diasporic convening in Lagos, Nigeria: the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, known as FESTAC ’77.

In addition to exhibiting a selection of these FESTAC ’77 photographs for the first time, the show presents varied contemporary responses to, and interpretations of, Moyo’s FESTAC ’77 works. Projects by Enid, Ayrika Hall, Cortlyn Kelly, Fabien Maltais-Bayda, Shane Rothe, Andrew Stock, and Abigail Taubman draw from a Fall 2020 course, Valuations, Economies and Revised Ecologies for the Black Image, co-taught by Romi Crawford and Theaster Gates as part of their Mellon Collaborative Fellowship.

K. Kofi Moyo is a photojournalist who has published works in Ebony, the Chicago Defender, and the Black Photographers Annual. In 1977 he traveled to Lagos, Nigeria, for the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC ’77), where he was an exhibiting artist. He later co-founded Real Men Cook for Charity and published Real Men Cook: Rites, Rituals, and Recipes for Living (Simon and Schuster, 2005).

In this video, created in conjunction with the opening of the K. Kofi Moyo and FESTAC ‘77: The Activation of a Black Archive exhibition, co-curators Romi Crawford and Theaster Gates discuss their project and exhibition at the Logan Center: