U.S. Opening of AVAA Exhibition at the Kennedy Center September 14-November 5, 2023
August 1, 2023
WASHINGTON — This fall, from September 14 to November 5, 2023, the Kennedy Center's Department of International Programming and the Howard University Republic of South Africa Project/ Sister States of Maryland, Inc. will present the groundbreaking exhibition, America's Voices Against Apartheid, in the Hall of Nations. This U.S. opening of the exhibition marks the beginning of an American tour, following its successful opening in May 2023 at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa.
America's Voices Against Apartheid is an exploration of the remarkable contributions made by U.S. citizens to the international movement that dismantled the apartheid system in South Africa, which persisted from 1948 to the early 1990s.
Co-curated by Kennedy Center Vice President of International Programming, Alicia Adams, the exhibition's U.S. premiere holds significant meaning for the institution. Adams notes, "This exhibit holds a special place in our hearts at the Kennedy Center, given our longstanding relationship with artists from South Africa, which began with the African Odyssey festival in the late '90s and continues through our World Stages programming and international festivals. Partnering with the South African Embassy and Ambassador Barbara Masekela for the 10th-anniversary concert celebrating the end of apartheid, featuring the late Hugh Masekela, further reinforced our commitment to this enduring connection."
Themed "Confronting Injustice at Home and Abroad," America's Voices Against Apartheid delves into the development of the U.S. anti-apartheid movement, showcasing the pivotal role American citizens and organizations played in the global fight against apartheid. The exhibit illuminates the roots of the enduring relationship between Americans, particularly African Americans, and South Africans, dating back to the 1880s.
Project Director, Dr. Jean Bailey, emphasizes the significance of the exhibition in fostering cultural and academic collaborations between South Africans and Americans, with a special focus on empowering the African American community. Dr. Bailey shares, "The AVAA project provides an exceptional opportunity to build upon historical relationships and cultivate new partnerships between Americans and South Africans. This exhibition is not only a celebration of our shared history but also a testament to our renewed commitment to mutual engagement and cooperation, extending to the broader African continent."
America's Voices Against Apartheid will spotlight well-known celebrity activists such as Harry Belafonte, Arthur Ashe, Steven Van Zandt, and Debbie Allen, alongside ordinary American citizens and organizations that courageously challenged both the South African apartheid regime and their own government's "constructive engagement" with discrimination. Their united voices resonated across America, transcending race, age, wealth, and political affiliations, as they marched on the streets, campuses, institutions, and government centers, unequivocally denouncing apartheid and their government's anti-democratic policies. They stood firm against oppression.
The exhibition will not only honor the heroic anti-apartheid activism of the 1980s and '90s but also shine a light on the trailblazing social justice pioneers of the late 1800s and early 1900s, who recognized that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." America's Voices Against Apartheid will also spotlight the vital contributions of Black churches, Black press, and Black colleges and universities in this movement, while forging connections to contemporary social justice movements in the U.S., South Africa, and the African Diaspora.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Kennedy Center will host panel discussions, a film screening on October 15, and a captivating Millennium Stage performance by the Ndlovu Youth Choir on November 15.
AVAA Curatorial Team: Jean Bailey, PhD, Alicia Adams, Khephra Burns, Camille Dantzler, PhD, Tara Hammons, Veronica Jackson, Charles Johnson, PhD, Emilia Potenza, Sonja Woods, M.A.
Exhibit Design The PRD Group LLC
AVAA Partners: Howard University Republic of South Africa Project, Apartheid Museum Johannesburg, U.S. Embassy Pretoria, Embassy of the Republic of South Africa in Washington, D.C., National African American Drug Policy Coalition, Sister States of Maryland, Inc.
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