Thursday, August 6, 2009

Emroy Douglas in New Zealand

The former Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party will deliver a public lecture and mount a solo exhibition when he visits New Zealand as the Elam International Artist in Residence at The University of Auckland.

Emory Douglas created the striking graphic images that came to represent the Black Panther Party in the 1960s, '70s and early '80s. The group was founded in 1966 in Oakland, California, and was one of the first organisations in US history to militantly struggle for ethnic minority and working class emancipation.

Symbolising the civil unrest of the times, Emory Douglas’ images were used to illustrate the Black Panther, the party’s weekly newspaper. Over the years, the Black Panther’s “Revolutionary Artist” made countless artworks, illustrations, and cartoons, which were reproduced in the paper and distributed as prints, posters, cards and sculptures.

Thanks in large part to Emory Douglas’ powerful visuals the Black Panther Party delivered a forceful message to a community ravaged by poverty, police brutality, and poor living conditions. The organisation was discontinued in the early 1980s.

While in Auckland, Emory Douglas will deliver a public lecture, “Emory Douglas and the Art of Revolution”, about the graphic art he created while Minister of Culture for the Black Panthers. He will also give lectures in New Plymouth, Dunedin and Wellington, where he is being hosted as part of his visit to New Zealand.

He is also the subject of a solo exhibition, “Emory Douglas, Minister of Culture, Black Panther Party”. The show, on display at the Gus Fisher Gallery, will include newspapers, posters, memorabilia and a busy schedule of public programmes.

Emory will also accept a number of community and iwi-based invitations. He will travel to the Ureweras, Taranaki and parts of wider Auckland. As part of their welcome to Emory Douglas, the Polynesian Panthers will host a public concert in his honour. The event will comprise talks, music and other activities.

“What makes this artist residency so significant is the historical ties between the New Zealand Polynesian Panther Party and the American Black Panther Party. Their battles for civil and human rights reflect the fight that Māori today continue their struggle to achieve,” says Emory Douglas, who is making his first visit to New Zealand.

“Emory Douglas is a highly respected artist whose work reflects the power, politics and passion of the causes in which he believes. More than just a glimpse at past political conflicts, Emory Douglas’ art is compelling precisely because of its relevance today. We are delighted to host such a prestigious figure of yesterday’s radical politics and today’s art world,” says Professor Jonathan Mane-Wheoki, Head of Elam School of Fine Arts.

“Emory Douglas and the Art of Revolution” will be delivered at 6.30pm on Monday 24 August in room 1.439, “Glass Box”, Engineering Building, (20 Symonds Street). The lecture and Power Point presentation is free and open to the public.

“Emory Douglas, Minister of Culture, Black Panther Party” will be mounted at the Gus Fisher Gallery (74 Shortland Street) from 21 August – 3 October. For details visit

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