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Currently on View

The Afro-Caribbean Mythopoetic Tradition

"I have never separated the writing of poetry from prayer." – Derek Walcott

Whether we are looking at lo real maravilloso, negrismo, Négritude, Antillanité, créolité, and other aesthetic movements of region, we find special attention to the task of regenerating, healing, and properly describing the new forms of life forged in the crucible of the transatlantic. Antiguan philosopher Paget Henry calls this the Afro-Caribbean mythopoetic tradition.

Henry works to heal the "cleavages and lack of dialogue that persist" (Henry 2000: xi) between the major schools of Caribbean thought, such as between the rationalist, materialist historicists (Fanon, CLR James, etc) and the protean magical thinkers of mythopoeticism (Wilson Harris, Sylvia Wynter, etc). Part of this task involves unearthing the mythopoetic tradition proper, placing it into conversation with other tendencies in the fragmented field, and using the "power of mythopoetic action to regenerate the self" (94) to achieve a larger unity in Caribbean thought that can measure up to the region's creolization and syncretism. Despite ruptures from colonization and neoliberalism, the mythopoetic tradition is precisely what "has kept our intellectual tradition quite close to the traditional African and Indian totalities" (16).

In the inaugural Center for Afrofuturist Studies Reading Room exhibition, Dominican artist manuel arturo abreu takes up Henry's project, curating a selection of literary, musical, and moving-image texts from the Afro-Caribbean mythopoetic tradition. These texts showcase the central mythopoetic proposal: consciousness itself is a radical resource for the Afro-Caribbean, inherited from a nexus of both pre- and post-colombian contact between the African and Amerindian mainlands. It is a resource which can work against the ways that "historicism remained enmeshed in European discourses on modernity" (56) and "the employing of Cartesian or Marxian notions of the human subject without much question or justification" (79). As the exhibition hopes to show, the 'newness' of 'New World Black' forms of life are precisely their continuity with those selves that came before them.

—manuel arturo abreu

Curated by manuel arturo abreu

(b. 1991, Santo Domingo) is a poet/artist from the Bronx. They received their BA in Linguistics from Reed College, 2014. They use what is at hand in a process of magical thinking, with attention to ritual aspects of aesthetics. Recent projects at Critical Path, Sydney; SOIL, Seattle; AB Lobby Gallery, PSU, Portland; Yaby, Madrid; MoMA and MoMA PS1, New York; NCAD Gallery, Dublin; AA|LA Gallery, Los Angeles; Centre d'Art Contemporain, Geneva; Veronica, Seattle; Rhizome and the New Museum, online; the Art Gym, Portland; Yale Union, Portland; and Open Signal Portland Community Media Center. abreu is the author of two books of poetry, List of Consonants and transtrender, and one book of critical art writing, Incalculable Loss. abreu composes club-feasible worship music as Tabor Dark. They also co-facilitate home school, a free pop-up art school in Portland currently in its fourth year of curriculum and in residency in 2019 at Yale Union, Portland.


Tuntún de pasa y grifería (1937)

Luis Palés Matos

The Kingdom of This World (1949)

Alejo Carpentier

In the Castle of My Skin (1953)

George Lamming

Shadows Move Among Them (1951)

Edgar Mittelholzer

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The Ripening (1959)

Edouard Glissant

Palace of the Peacock (1960)

Wilson Harris

Hills of Hebron (1962)

Sylvia Wynter

The Children of Sisyphus (1968)

Orlando Patterson

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Black Midas

Jan Carew

Notebook of a Return to My Native Land (1939)

Aime Cesaire

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Crick, Crack, Monkey (1970)

Merle Hodges

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Another Life (1973)

Derek Walcott

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Tablero: doce cuentos de lo popular a lo culto (1978)

Aida Cartagena Portalatin

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982)

Audre Lorde

At the Bottom of the River (1983)

Jamaica Kincaid

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Bake-Face and Other Guava Stories (1986)

Opal Palmer Adisa

Myal (1988)

Erna Brodber

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The Arrival of the Snake Woman and other stories (1989)

Olive Senior

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Her True-True Name (1989)

Pamela Mordecai

Texaco (1992)

Patrick Chamoiseau

Middle Passages (1992)

Kamau Brathwaite

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The Armstrong Trilogy (1994)

Roy Heath

Autobiography of My Mother (1996)

Jamaica Kincaid

The Nature of Blood (1997)

Caryl Phillips

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The Farming of Bones (1998)

Edwidge Danticat

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Midnight Robber (2000)

Nalo Hopkinson

Xango Music (2001)

Geoffrey Philip

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A Map to the Door of No Return Notes to Belonging (2001)

Dionne Brand

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When the Spirits Dance Mambo: Growing Up Nuyorican in El Barrio (2004)

Marta Moreno Vega

Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory and the Sacred (2005)

M Jacqui Alexander

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Directed by Desire: The Complete Poems of June Jordan (2005)

June Jordan

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Yoruba from Cuba: Selected Poems of Nicolas Guillen (2005)

Nicolas Guillen

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Zong! (2008)

M NourbeSe Philip

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Homing Instincts / Querencias (2014)

Nancy Morejón

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The Marvellous Equations of the Dread: A Novel in Bass Riddim (2018)

Marcia Douglas

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