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AfriCOBRA, or the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists, was an artist collective in Chicago. The organization began in 1962, under a different name Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC), by Jeff Donaldson in combination with four other artists.
Goals of the AfriCOBRA movement
The AfriCOBRA collective was heavily tied to the Black Arts Movement, the collective was based in the South Side of Chicago. In an interview celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Teresa A. Carbone (the curator for the Brooklyn Museum) stated, "It's difficult to draw a one-to-one correspondence between a work and an immediate social effect, but graphics from the Chicago artist collective AfriCOBRA, [African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists] really did help reshape the mindset of black communities."
The collection's name went through three evolutions: Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC); Coalition of Black Revolutionary Artists (COBRA); and finally, African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists. The final name pulled sought to create a larger sense of community positing that art-making has a collective nature. The creators wanted the works to be accessible, so they made poster art that was designed for mass production.
AfriCOBRA, worked to make African-American art a community effort. Much of the visual aesthetic of these works are focused on social, political, and economical conditions related to Black Americans. They created a manifesto entitled, "Ten in Search of a Nation" in 1969.
One of the most notable works was the commemoration of black revolutionaries in the Wall of Respect that was painted by the members of the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC). Jeff Donaldson, Wadsworth Jarrell, Gerald Williams, and Barbara Jones-Hogu were members originally who later on formed AfriCOBRA, as well as Sylvia Abernathy, Myrna Weaver and others. This wall also became was Barbara Jones-Hogu writes as, "...a visual symbol of Black nationalism and liberation."
AfriCOBRA was more than a collection of artists; it was a passionate call for freedom founded on a set of philosophical and aesthetic principles. In the struggle for liberation and equality within the African-American community, AfriCOBRA represented these principles through the medium of art.
Barbara Jones-Hogu characterized the artistic expression of the AfriCOBRA movement by saying: “[Our art] must communicate to its viewer a statement of truth, of action, of education, of conditions and a state of being to our people. We wanted to speak to them and for them, by having our common thoughts, feelings, trials and tribulations express our total existence as a people.”
- "AFRICOBRA NOW!". International Review of African American Art. 2007.
- "Art and Protest". Art in America. March 2014.
- Donaldson, Jeff (2012). "AfriCOBRA Manifesto? "Ten in Search of a Nation"". Nka.
- Farrington, Lisa (2005). Creating Their Own Image: The History of African-American Women Artists. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 129. ISBN 978-0-19-976760-1.