Aesthetically Black: The Articulation of Blackness in the Black Arts Movement and Quilombhoje

  • Cheryl Sterling


The Afro-Brazilian writers’ collective Quilombhoje marks a radical departure in the positionality of black writers in the Brazilian mindscape. As the collective formed to create works that both challenge the social marginalization of Afro-descended peoples and to give a venue and voice to artists who would never be recognized by the Brazilian literati, they open a space of freedom and fluidity of expression. Their expressivity, of course, first focuses on their blackness and the aesthetic foundation from which to derive a spectra of artistic production, particular to their imbrication of the personal and the political in the creation of art. They deliberately discard the models of aesthetic engagement that privilege “art for art’s sake” and reformulate it in the Du Boisian sense that “all Art is propaganda and ever must be” (par. 29). Du Bois advocates for a political art form, tying his concept of propaganda to the creation of beauty in truth and freedom. While Walter Benjamin (1969) critiques the attachment to the political in the reproductability of art (224), the Black Arts Movement (BAM) and Quilombhoje call for its intrinsic imbrication, likening artistic production to decolonizing strategies, in which a recuperated culture is seen as an essential factor in the substantial and psychological overthrow of dominant ideologies. Du Bois’s entwinement of art and politics generates a relational dynamic that lives in the works of these movements and overarches their conception of literary production, for the heightened consciousness that art produces animates the passions for political involvement.


Black Woman Black People Palm Tree Aesthetic Judgment Artistic Production 
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© Cheryl Sterling 2012

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  • Cheryl Sterling

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