At the start and conclusion of this unit, students respond to questions related to the unit’s grounding in the Afrofuturist aesthetic, allowing them to reflect on what they may have learned, pose new questions they might have, and offer their own perspectives on how Afrofuturism might influence their thinking in and out of school moving forward. Coming in the form of what is typical called the pre-and post- assessment portions of a unit, this beginning and concluding activity will be mostly reflective in nature and also support the overall notion that Afrofuturism is a mindset that can be applied in a variety of contexts.
In addition to gaining an understanding of Afrofuturism and the Afrofuturist perspective, this unit is also about students honing their skills of critical analysis. Following the opening reflection of the unit and an overview of the scope of the unit, students will spend time learning about the visual artist Clotilde Jimenez. Students will view a short film of approximately four minutes published on the website of gallerist Mariane Ibrahim, which showcases pieces in one of Jimenez’s recent shows called “The Contest.” The film gives an overview of Jimenez’s work in collage and sculpture and tells a little of his backstory and how that influences his art. In addition to watching the short film, students will be given a section of transcribed dialogue from the short film to engage in an even closer analysis of Jimenez talking about his work and process.
Once students have had a chance to learn a little about Jimenez and his art, the closer critical analysis will begin. Both in large and small group settings, students will take several class periods to examine three of Jimenez’s works in particular. Supported by the principles of visual literacy described later, students will examine the works from several perspectives, guided by prompts or questions they devise as a class with the guidance of the teacher. The pieces by Jimenez students will analyze are all collages from his exhibition titled “The Contest.” Each piece shows a figure in a different position and in each piece, Jimenez has used different media to compose the figure and the scene. All three of the images for this unit display single figures in boxing stances and boxing attire. Peekaboo (Puerto Rico) shows a figure with both hands in fists curled up near the face, appearing to be a boxer ready to spar. Behind the boxer are the flags of several nations, including Puerto Rico, Ghana and Canada - similar to the small flags that might ring a boxing gym to represent the various backgrounds of the many fighters. Toy Puncher depicts a heavy-set figure on a small stool in a boxing ring, like a fighter taking a break between rounds, or perhaps preparing for or recovering from a sparring session. This fighter is wearing protective headgear and has one boxing glove off and one boxing glove on. Most interesting in this piece is that the shirt of the figure appears to be made of actual fabric from an undershirt - a technique that Jimenez describes in the short film students will view at the start of the unit of using some of his actual clothing in some of his pieces. Always on Guard is the final piece students will examine. Similar to the previous piece, in Always on Guard Jimenez appears to use pieces from his own Adidas brand track pants to cover the legs of a fighter in a seated position but this time in a chair. The fighter and chair are in a nondescript location. Similar to Toy Puncher in this piece the fighter also has one boxing glove removed.
Students will use a tool described below to support a critical visual analysis of all three pieces by Jimenez and will then use a second tool to collect their thoughts, make comparisons and contrasts between the works, and make plans for their own creative response. For the creative response itself, students will be asked to, like Jimenez, create a collage that uses a variety of mediums to compose a figure that represents the most important or significant qualities they see in themselves, their family members or other groups that they identify with. Just as Jimenez uses the love for boxing he and his father have as a basis for many of the pieces in “The Contest” series, I am asking students to consider what interests, skills, and attributes they share with others that are influential in their lives, and use the medium of collage to present that in a human figure or figures. Wherever possible, students will also be encouraged to use material that is from or similar to an object that they have used in their everyday lives, like Jimenez uses cuttings from old t-shirts and track-pants in two of the pieces studied in this unit. Students will be encouraged to use their analysis of Jimenez and the document on which they collect their thoughts about their analyses of Jimenez as a kind of planning document for their own work. If possible, students will be given several days to plan and create their collage.
Before completing the post-unit reflection, students will complete a 1-2 paragraph narrative explaining how they approached the work in their collage, what influence Jimenez’s work had on their own process, and what they are most proud of or see as most significant in their work. This “Artist’s Note” will help both the student and the teacher in the assessment process gauging growth according to the standards identified for this unit in the Appendix.