Nancy Cunard : Negro Anthology
An anticonformist icon of the 1920s and 1930s, poet, publisher, collector, militant and journalist, but also a model for Man Ray and muse to Aragon, English woman Nancy Cunard symbolised a period in which the artistic and literary avant-garde became intertwined with the political world.
Engaged in the struggle against colonialism and racism alongside the Surrealists, she united intellectual and political, French and Anglo-Saxon networks around the publication of the now mythical Negro Anthology.
Published in 1934 and lavishly illustrated, this 858-page book, resembling a major documentary enquiry, blends popular culture, sociology, politics, history, art history in the form of articles, archives, photographs, extracts from the press, musical scores, eye-witness accounts, etc.
The contributors were militants, journalists, artists, university staff, African-Americans, people from the Caribbean, Africa, Madagascar, Latino-America, America, Europe ; women and men. Some of them had been colonised, discriminated against, segregated.
Negro Anthology presented in particular texts by French Surrealists translated by Samuel Beckett, young African independentists (Jomo Kenyatta and Nnamdi Azikiwe), Anglo-Saxon writers (Ezra Pound and Williams Carlos Williams) and black American writers and poets (Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston).
Through period documents and photos by Man Ray, Raoul Ubac, Cecil Beaton and Curtis Moffat, the exhibition “Blanck Atlantic” by Nancy Cunard evokes the dedicated life of Nancy Cunard but also the intellectual, political, social and artistic history of the black diaspora in the 1930s, which constituted the transnational political and cultural formation that British sociologist Paul Gilroy named the “Black Atlantic”.