Edited by Marc James Léger and David Tomas
What is the role of revolutionary art? Zapantera Negra, the result of an encounter between Emory Douglas of the Black Panthers and autonomous Indigenous and Zapatista communities, helps us find out.
What is the role of revolutionary art in times of distress? When Emory Douglas, former Minister of Culture of the Black Panther Party, accepted an invitation from the art collective EDELO and the Rigo 23 to meet with autonomous Indigenous and Zapatista communities in Chiapas, Mexico, they addressed just this question. Zapantera Negra is the result of their encounter. It unites the bold aesthetics, revolutionary dreams, and dignified declarations of two leading movements that redefine emancipatory politics in the twentieth and twenty-first century.
The artists of the Black Panthers and the Zapatistas were born into a centuries-long struggle against racial capitalism and colonialism, state repression and international war and plunder. Not only did these two movements offer the world an enduring image of freedom and dignified rebellion, they did so with rebellious style, putting culture and aesthetics at the forefront of political life. A powerful elixir of hope and determination, Zapantera Negra provides a galvanizing presentation of interviews, militant artwork, and original documents from these two movements’ struggle for dignity and liberation.
“Zapantera Negra is a rare document from the US and Mexico that intertwines art, dialogues, and processes between artists and cultural spaces that open collaborative intersections of politics and creation far outside the confines of art as commerce and rigid politics. Blending striking images and personal stories of the Black Panther Party and the Zapatistas, the book spans revolutionary tendencies and histories rooted in collective liberation. With hope and determination, Zapantera Negra shows us the power that art has to seed flowers that push through concrete, dissolve static confines, and open liberatory possibilities for living unwritten futures.”—scott crow, author of Black Flags and Windmills: Hope, Anarchy and the Common Ground Collective and Setting Sights: Histories and Reflections on Community Armed Self-Defense
”Zapantera Negra helps us understand the power of art, how it can be a process that restores dignity and revives radical consciousness, and the ways it can be utilized on the road to liberation and autonomy. Emory Douglas and other contributors boldly present the insurgent spirit of the Black Panther Party and the EZLN and the visual cultures that reflect people’s struggle for self-determination in the context of the hypercapitalism which impacts so many of our struggles. Open the book. Allow Zapantera Negra to ignite your imagination and inspire new dreams of liberated futures.”—Melanie Cervantes, graphic artist and cultural worker, cofounder of Dignidad Rebelde
“Zapantera Negra is a marvelous and illuminating exploration that sheds penetrating light on the borderlands of Mexico and the United States of America. As I read this fascinating book, my mind gravitated instantaneously to my own book on this related topic, reminding me once more of shared Black and Brown histories and landscapes of struggle. These enlightening pages remind us of the commonalities between the Black Panthers and the Zapatistas, and through image and word, point us all to a brighter and more bountiful tomorrow.”—Gerald Horne, author of Black and Brown: African-Americans and the Mexican Revolution, 1910–1920, and The Dawning of the Apocalypse: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, Settler Colonialism, and Capitalism in the Long Sixteenth Century
About the Contributors:
Marc James Léger is an independent scholar based in Montreal. His essays in art criticism and cultural theory have appeared in Afterimage, Art Journal, C Magazine, Etc, FUSE, Inter, Parachute, Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, Journal of Canadian Studies, Canadian Journal of Film Studies, RACAR, Third Text, and Creative Industries Journal. Léger has exhibited artwork in Canada, the US, and the UK.
David Tomas is an artist, anthropologist, and writer. His production in the visual arts has its roots in a post-1970s critique of conceptual art's disciplinary infrastructure. He is the author of several books, including Escape Velocity: Alternative Instruction Prototype for Playing the Knowledge Game (2012) and Vertov, Snow, Farocki: Machine Vision and the Posthuman(2013). Tomas is Professor in Visual Arts at the Université du Québec--Montréal.
Emory Douglas is former Revolutionary Artist and Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party, from February 1967 until its discontinuation in the early 1980s. Douglas's art and design concepts were always seen on the front and back pages of The Black Panther newspaper, reflecting the politics of the Black Panther Party and the concerns of the community. Joining forces with Black Panther cofounders Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton, Douglas was foundational in shaping the Party's visual and cultural power and sustaining one of its most ambitious and successful endeavors.