Ajuan Mance

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Ajuan Mance is a visual artist and a professor of African American literature at Mills College in Oakland, California. She holds a BA from Brown University and an MA and PhD from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. The creator of the 1001 Black Men online sketchbook, she has shown her paintings and drawings in individual and group exhibitions around the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the creator and publisher of several zines and comics, including A Blues for Black Santa, Gender Studies, The Little Book of Big, Black Bears, and 1001 Black Men. Ajuan publishes her zines and comics under the independent 8-Rock Press imprint. Her paintings, drawings, and illustrations have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Contra Costa Times, Transition Magazine, Mission at Tenth, Rad Dad Magazine, Oregon Quarterly and other publications.

Artist Statement

In my recent work, I push past entrenched stereotypes to create images of Black men that reflect the wonderful complexity of African American lives––our history so deeply embedded in our present, our celebrations so often tempered by grief and, yes, the pleasure and danger we find in so many of the people, places and activities that give us joy. My current work represents my public participation in the discussion around the troubling depictions of Black maleness and masculinity offered up in far too many of the African American community's own representations of Black boys and men. My focus on depicting men of African descent has challenged me to examine the various dimensions of my own gaze on the Black male subject. I have become keenly aware of those points at which my gaze undermines and rejects the stereotypes so often applied to Black men; but I have also had to confront and reexamine those moments at which my vision of Black manhood and masculinity reinforces degrading images and restrictive roles.

Work

The Other Rainbow Nation #4
2015
Ink and acrylic on illustration board
30”x40”
The Other Rainbow Nation #5
2015
Ink and acrylic on illustration board
30”x40”
Stud Finery: Oaktown Style
2015
Ink and acrylic on illustration board
30”x40”

About this Article

This article was originally created as part of SOMArts Cultural Center's Making a Scene: 50 Years of Alternative Bay Area Spaces. To learn how to add or edit content please visit the Bay Area Society for Art & Activism's online History Collection Lab.

Sources