October 13-19, 2017

What does it mean to return—to a cultural history, to a movement, and to the site of Africa in developing an artistic language?

Taking place from October 13 through 19, 2017, Returns considers the aesthetic and sociopolitical ramifications of Pan-Africanist movements of the early to mid-20th century, which sought to garner connectedness and solidarity among Africans on the continent and those of African descent living internationally. Returns features conversations that unpack the different meanings and uses of the term Pan-Africanism across the diaspora, looking to the ideas spearheaded by prominent scholars such as Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. Du Bois, Aimé Césaire, Kwame Nkrumah, and Léopold Sénghor. With a particular focus on activities in Chicago, Returns also explores trends of Afrocentrism in artistic practices and social movements in the city from the 1960s into the 1970s, alongside reflections on the global Pan-African cultural festivals of the era including FESTAC ’77.

Returns evolves in two chapters. The first chapter takes place October 13 through 15, 2017 with the participation of educator Abdul Alkalimat, scholar Romi Crawford, author and educator Haki R. Madhubuti, scholar Dominique Malaquais, artist and writer Naeem Mohaiemen, photographer Marilyn Nance, and filmmaker Floyd Webb.

The second chapter features a public roundtable discussion with post-colonial theorist Françoise Vergès on October 19, 2017.

Returns is the first convening in a multiyear research project, public program, and online platform that explores the history of Pan-Africanism and its articulation in the art and culture of the contemporary African diaspora. The Ties that Bind: Waves of Pan-Africanism in Contemporary Art and Society creates space for critical discourse and art production, and engages a multigenerational and international group of artists, scholars, and curators across three public forums or “congresses” taking place in Chicago over the next two years.  

Returns also extends conversations from the conference Black Arts International: Temporalities & Territories - a weeklong exploration of the art and scholarship of the black diaspora taking place from October 9 through 14, 2017 at Northwestern University. 

The Ties that Bind: Waves of Pan-Africanism in Contemporary Art and Society is presented by Logan Center Exhibitions and curated by Yesomi Umolu, Exhibitions Curator. The project is made possible by the generous support of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the VIA Art Fund. Additional support for Returns is provided by the France Chicago Center, and Rebuild Foundation.