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What Makes That Black?

What Makes That Black?

Oleh Luana

Baca pratinjau

What Makes That Black?

Oleh Luana

127 pages
49 minutes
Sep 6, 2016


We all can name some of the Africanist aesthetic-structures that fuel African American and American art ... Syncopation, Improvisation, Call and Response, Cool, Polyrhythm, or Innovation as an ambition– But there are many, many more. What Makes That Black? The African-American Aesthetic identifies and defines seventy-four elements of the aesthetic through text and illustration. Using the magnificent camerawork of R.J. Muna, Sharen Bradford, Jae Man Joo, Rachel Neville, James Barry Knox, and more– as they point their cameras at Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, and jazz artists such as Cécile McLorin Salvant and Wynton Marsalis– a specific artistic consciousness or sensibility visually unfolds. Luana even joins the camera crew as she shoots Oakland Street Graffiti.
Sep 6, 2016

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What Makes That Black? - Luana


Copyright © 2016 Luana Luana.

Cover Design by Von Langoyan

Cover photo: Ashley Mayeux, Courtesy of Complexions Contemporary Ballet.

Photo by Rachel Neville

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted by any means—whether auditory, graphic, mechanical, or electronic—without written permission of both publisher and author, except in the case of brief excerpts used in critical articles and reviews. Unauthorized reproduction of any part of this work is illegal and is punishable by law.

ISBN: 978-1-4834-5479-5 (sc)

ISBN: 978-1-4834-5480-1 (e)

Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.

Any people depicted in stock imagery provided by Thinkstock are models, and such images are being used for illustrative purposes only.

Certain stock imagery © Thinkstock.

Lulu Publishing Services rev. date: 10/03/2016

Special Thanks to Jessica Nelson, Dawna Markova, Alonzo King,

Brenda Dixon Gottschild, Michael Butler, and Patricia Heinicke Jr.



How This Book Came to Be

The African-American Aesthetic Conceptualized

African-American Aesthetic

The List

Admiration of the Black / Brown Body

Aesthetic of The Cool

Angularity • Akimbo

Art Intelligence • Transformative Functionalism • Ngombo

Balanced Asymmetry

Blood Memories

Blues – Pain into Art


Call and Response

Candid and Direct

Celebrating Virtuosity

Competitive Camaraderie • Cutting • Ciphering circles

Complementary Pairs

Compound Synchronized Body Movements

Correct Entrance and Exit

Creative Adjustment • Willingness for Change

Creative Synthesis • Fusion Techniques

Cross Rhythms

Efficacious Technique

Embracing the Conflict

Entertainment and Enlightenment as Concurrent Objectives

Ephebism and Vitality

Establishing and Stretching the Perimeter • Abstraction

Festive Stylization & Adornment • Fly

Fluid Time-Perception

Griotic/Folkloric/Autobiographical Expression

Hantu • Time-Space Synesthesia

High Density


Imitation • Representing • Mimesis

Immediacy of Access


Individual Stylization • Profiling

Innovate the Tradition • Novelty

Instrument Switching

Invisible Conductor


Jooking • Juke

Kinetic Vocabulary • Embodiment • Athleticism

Kujichagulia • Self-Referential

Limbic Resonance

Liminal Space


Low Sense of Gravity

Mask • Masking • Counterfeit


Nommo • Significance of Names and Naming


Object Gesturing

Oral Tradition

Paradoxical Thinking • Simultaneous Inclusion • Divergent Thinking



Polyrhythm • Polymeter

Protest Thought

Quoting • Sampling • Ciphering

Radical Juxtaposition

Repetition and Riffing



Spiritual Themes

Straight Line and Ring Formations

Style Juxtaposition

Suspended Beats • Leaving Space

Symbolic Expression


Timbrel Variation

Torso Articulations and Isolations


Verbal/Visual Play • Signifying

Virtuosic Speed

Honorary Tenets

Internet Examples of The List

Naming the Sacred Circle

List of Photographs




This book presents The List. It is a visual catalog of the African-American Aesthetic tenets. Identifying and recognizing an aesthetic is important; it is similar to a language. One can use, for example, French or Italian or Hindustani, and have complete command of vocabulary and the grammar. However there are other aspects of language– use of nuance, elegance in the structuring of ideas, or the sublime use of wit– which requires years of living in the country before one is considered literate. The consciousness with which one uses the language, the how, is exceedingly imperative. An Aesthetic is no different.

Before we proceed to the African-American Aesthetic tenets, and the magnificent artistry of photojournalists who stand witness to the aesthetic, I want to suggest a definition. It is the definition I used to identify the tenets during field and academic research: The African-American Aesthetic is a mainstream of questioning and a culling of answers from a specific sensibility, from a specific compositional approach, which has enriched not only the African-American aesthetic but also the American aesthetic. It is simultaneously a structure, a history, a function, a psychology, and a force of creation; it resides deeper than the skin of a particular dance, musical composition, or performer. It is a type of intelligence, an energy signature that is ancient, historical, contemporary, and immediate.

We all can name some of the African-American structural aesthetic elements—Syncopation, Improvisation, Call and Response, Polyrhythm, Innovation as an Agenda—but there are many, many more structures, and they travel so deep into the cultural intelligence that they become functions, a psychology and a history of paradigms, the how.

Once familiar with African-American expressive tradition we can (1) see it as a tradition with a long pedigree, (2) critique

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