Nina Simone’s “Young, Gifted & Black” Inspires South African Exhibition



Whenever Nina Simone graced the stage or flows through our speakers despite her nonchalant and effortless demeanor, it is her presence and raspy voice that often leaves you with chills. Her voice belting words that are as relevant today as they were when the wax dried on the vinyl. Her more popular song Young, Gifted and Black has served as the theme song to many revolutions and movements led my young people. It has served as the anthem to hundreds of African American brothers and sisters as they walk across stages with degrees, further causing damage to the racial stereotypes they deal with on a regular. More recently Young, Gifted & Black has crossed oceans and borders as it is now the inspiration behind and title of a South African exhibition at Goodman Gallery which runs through to November 11.

The exhibition is curated by conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas and includes the work of artists such as Nina Chanel Abney, Derrick Adams and Sadie Barnette. Located in Johannesburg, this mixed media exhibition includes dark and bold oil paintings, bright and vibrant ink jet prints as well as clothes, flowers, and plasters all put together in a way that explores an expansive post-Civil Rights era notion of blackness.


In an interview with The Creator’s Project, Thomas states, “I had a number of ideas I wanted the exhibition to be about. In light of what has been going on in America with Black Lives Matter, and the general conversation about value of black lives in our society, I felt like I needed to make a show around that.” When deciding which artists he would feature in his exhibition, Thomas looked internationally for artist who’s work invoked the feelings of being young, black and gifted. Thomas claims he was inspired by Simone’s determination to celebrate black lives in her song because to him as her, ” To be young, gifted and black/that’s where it’s at.” Thomas states, “To Simone, these affirmations—these unique gifts—of soul and belonging, gained because of one’s race, age, and abilities, not in spite of, are fact.”

If you find yourself nowhere near South Africa and would still like to see the Young, Gifted and Black” exhibition, you can view it here on the Goodman Gallery’s web catalog.

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