SWIMMING AND THE AFRICAN DIASPORA

SWIMMING AND THE AFRICAN DIASPORA

This reflective space invites visitors to sit down to listen to narratives by Dr. Kevin Dawson, focusing the viewer to observe certain aspects of each image while providing historical context. Dr. Dawson’s audioscape guides the viewer’s attention to compare and contrast elements of each composition, and reconsider how Atlantic Africans and members of the African diaspora used water as a cultural space.

Voice and archival imagery provided by Dr. Kevin Dawson, author of Undercurrents of Power: Aquatic Culture in the African Diaspora, Winner of the Lapidus Center’s 2019 Harriet Tubman Prize. Dr. Dawson is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Merced.

“Kevin Dawson’s Undercurrents of Power is important. More than perhaps any study in recent memory, it brings the existence, value, and meaning of water in the African diaspora to the forefront of Atlantic cultural, social, and economic development. In a broad, sweeping narrative, Dawson covers remarkable ground, crisscrossing the Atlantic as he draws together hundreds of examples of how water defined the pre-slavery lives of Africans forced into the Atlantic slave trade, and how it helped diverse peoples and cultures identify themselves, individually and collectively, in the whirlwind and trauma of enslavement. The work explores the complexities of honor, warfare, social status, youth, sex, technology, and leisure and how each interacted with, and indeed structured itself around, water and aquatic spaces.”
The Journal of Southern History