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Emory Douglas, Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party, meets Zapatista Mayan Artist in Zapatista territory to create some ART.
A multimedia exploration of the artistic and political connections between the Black Panther Party and the Zapatista movements as incubated in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. To coincide with Emory Douglas’, the former Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party, residency in its space, EDELO (En Donde Era La ONU), a creative laboratory, will develop an art exhibition and single-issue newsletter. The exhibition will showcase pieces by local Zapatista artists and will explore their artistic identification with the Zapatista and Black Panther movements; the newsletter will pay homage to Douglas’ work in the Black Panthers’ popular press and will showcase new articles and artworks that will explore the connections between art and social movements as manifested in today’s multifaceted world.
At the peak of its popularity in 1970, 139,000 copies of The Black Panther newsletter were distributed throughout the United States on a weekly basis. Within its pages, Emory Douglas, the movement’s Minister of Culture, published his artworks in an effort to “illustrate[e] conditions that made revolution seem necessary; and… construct a visual mythology of power for people who felt powerless and victimized.” The newsletter and its accompanying illustrations played a central role in the articulation of the “What We Want, What We Believe” portion of the Black Panther’s Ten Point Program
In 1994, the Zapatista uprising, a Mexican, indigenous movement originating in the southern state of Chiapas, generated and disseminated a different sort of mass communication made possible by the rise of the internet. Photographic, video, and written information regarding the movement’s actions spread around the world in real time, increasing awareness of the Zapatista cause while also building solidarity for what the New York Times termed “the first post-modern revolution.” Positioning itself as a struggle against neoliberalism waged against 500 years of oppression, Zapatismo has employed new technologies of information distribution in order to articulate their wants, beliefs, and various identities to themselves and to their global audience.
The Black Panther and the Zapatista movements occurred in distinct cultural, political, and historical milieus; nonetheless, the two share a common appreciation of the power of the image and the written word to build their respective social movements into personal, collective, transformative, and public experiences. In contrast to the strong self-definition established and disseminated by these two movements via pertinent media channels, today’s multimedia, plugged-in landscape seems to promote the opposite development.
Today we tweet, text, and browse through myriad contexts, occasionally gaining a glimpse into the exterior world but more frequently losing ourselves in the internet’s echo chamber of opinions and perspectives. ZAPANTERA NEGRA (ZPN) will be a single-run magazine of 20,000 full-color copies that will merge the powerful imagery and layout style of Emory Douglas with the visions and voices of Zapatista painters and embroidery collectives. It will bring the two similar movements together on the page to demonstrate their commonalities, tie the movements to the present, and articulate a new, collaborative, interdisciplinary mode of information distribution and political, social, and economic self-identification.
Emory Douglas, the former Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party, will be in residency at EDELO in Chiapas, Mexico in November of 2012. During his time in Chiapas, he will visit Zapatista communities and work with Zapatista painters while simultaneously guiding a team of artists and editors in the layout and construction of ZPN. The newsletter will also include personal reflections authored by writers, academics, and artists on how art has moved and encouraged their own self-definition, work, and hope in a possible, better world.
ZAPANTERA NEGRA will be distributed in five countries and within select educational, artistic, and political institutions. Its project coordinators hope to develop a grassroots distribution network that will also allow for its dissemination to communities with little access to alternative media. The newsletter will also have a social media platform where “friends,” “followers,” and “fans” will be able to download, print, and wheatpaste the newsletter on overpasses and walkways. The newsletter production and distribution will be paralleled by the production of a collection of tapestries made by Zapatista embroidering communities that merge and exchange Black Panther imagery as articulated by Emory Douglas with that of the Zapatista movement.