Curatorial Fellowship 2024

In 2024, we are launching a Curatorial Fellowship to engage with national curators to facilitate connecting Louisiana artists to national art networks. This is an invitational curatorial residency. Over the course of two years, the invited curator will generate a curatorial statement for their residency and use this statement to guide the curation of three exhibitions:Louisiana Solo exhibition, Louisiana Group exhibition, and a Collective member exhibition. 

The inaugural resident curator starting in 2024 will be Niama Safia Sandy. Niama Safia Sandy is a New York-based cultural anthropologist, curator, producer, organizer, multidisciplinary artist and musician. Her creative practice delves into the human story – through the application and critical lenses of culture, healing, history, migration, music, race and ritual. Niama’s aim is to leverage history, the visual, written and performative arts, chiefly those of the Global Black Diaspora, to tell stories we know in ways we have not yet thought to tell them and to lift us all to a higher state of historical, ontological and spiritual wholeness in the process. See the full statement below.

Genealogies of Sovereignty: A Curatorial Exploration

“My project, Genealogies of Sovereignty is an interrogation of 18th, 19th and early 20th century national and Transatlantic Black cultural and civic networks rooted in the generative power of the relationships and histories that reify connections to self-determination, and liberatory frameworks. Narratives about Black life in this country center often center on enslavement, and the deeply traumatic footprint of racial discrimination. This project offers a clearing toward connecting to a new facet of Black American, Black Diasporic—really—world history. This project is both about pulling a thread to unravel a knot and mending a tear in the timeline toward a reclamation of story, space, and imagination. It is a step toward remembering that the radical and networked consciousness of the present are a continuation of work that has been ongoing for centuries. 

Many of those richest and most connected Black histories have been lost, buried under the rubble of urban development, intentional erasure and other shades of “progress.” As early as the 17th century, Black enclaves in the Americas have been generative spaces for artmaking, culture-shifting ideas, and activism that had impacts and roots/routes that radiated across the Black Diasporic world. Since its inception as a French colonial outpost in the early 18th century, New Orleans has occupied a very unique position not only in what would become the United States, but in the New World at-large. The stories of formerly enslaved African peoples, maroon and, free communities of color—ranging from The German Coast Rebellion, the establishment of mutual aid networks in far-reaching locales—in the antebellum period and beyond are expressions of the fortitude exercised by Black Lousianians. I am interested in learning more about these histories and inviting artists to engage with them.

I hope to use my time in the fellowship to do archival and oral history research to identify and explore specific persons of interest within New Orleans’ (and surrounding locales) Black liberatory history. I will connect with local scholars, community members and other stakeholders with intimate knowledge of the historic Louisiana personalities and organizations ranging from the 18th century to early 20th century and their possible connections to the larger Global African Diaspora. In addition to that, I will also explore and document sites as revealed through research. 

While the precise work product of what this research will yield is unclear, I am feeling called to explore the narrative and physical landscapes of global Black diaspora cultural and liberation sites. I would like to create an open archive that will offer artists and other members of the community opportunities for engagement. This archive could take the form of an experimental book published with Paper Machine, site specific installations connecting historically significant sites with the present day, workshops, curated performances across disciplines and other forms. 

Whatever form it takes, I am clear that the work will capture and connect both the energetic tenor, and the physical memory of sites around the globe where Black liberatory, revolutionary action, as well as cultural and community organizing took place. Building through Hartman’s concept of “critical fabulation” as a framework, the final project will bridge the critical and violent absences in the archive and consider how artistic practice may address them through “imagining beauty and what it might make possible in the world,” and reconnecting to forgotten histories of resistance, and change. Ultimately, I do not want to create or contribute to any extractive paradigms that will make members of the community feel they are being exploited. Honor and value are paramount concepts in the framework I will build here. The indicators that will show the impact is the volume of local participants who will inform and co-create this work in partnership through sharing their creative gifts, family and personal connections to the sites I will research. Ultimately, I want artists, researchers and the greater community alike to share their knowledge while inviting others to learn and hone new skills of their own.”

Niama Safia Sandy
Antenna Inaugural Curatorial Fellow, 2023-2025