“The Cultured Pearl Affair”


Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Zeta Zeta Omega Chapter


DATE: Friday, January 31st

Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science

TIME: 6:30 p.m.

Classy Casual or Business

The local chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. is presenting a special event to kick off Black History Month this Friday night at 6:30 p.m. at the Evansville Museum of Arts, History, and Science. “The Cultured Pearl Affair” features admission to the new “Posing Beauty in African American Culture” exhibit with a guided tour by the museum curator.

A panel discussion about the evolving standard of beauty in American and in African-American Culture will follow and will be moderated by Dr. Annette Parks, Chair, Department of History; Director, Gender and Women’s Studies Program at University of Evansville. Admission is $10.00 which includes entry to the “Posing Beauty” exhibit and appetizers. Admission for students with ID is $5.00. Tickets may be purchased at the door.

The “Posing Beauty” photography show explores the contested ways in which African and African American beauty have been represented in historical and contemporary contexts through a diverse range of media including photography, film, video, fashion, advertising, and other forms of popular culture such as music and the Internet. “Posing Beauty” presents works that capture the aesthetics of more than 40 photographers and artists and their relationships to their subjects. While the show is curated from a photographic or visual viewpoint, it’s hard to ignore the subtext of its images, which are

divided into three categories: “Constructing a Pose,” “Body and Image” and “Modeling Beauty and Beauty Contests.”

The photos “challenge idealized forms of beauty in art by examining their portrayal and exploring a variety of attitudes about race, class, gender, popular culture and politics,” according to program notes. The exhibition includes arresting images such as Lyle Ashton Harris’ 1987 “Miss America,” which shows an African American woman with white face makeup and an American flag draped across her bare upper body, and Lauren Kelley’s 2007 portrait of a woman with hair picks tipped with the black power closed- fist symbol radiating from her head to form an afro shape.

Taken together, these photographs are far more than just striking pictures of African American men and women. They document concepts of beauty throughout several decades of African American culture. And each piece is the starting point for an intriguing discussion about what is considered beautiful, both within African American culture and within society in general.

Subjects such as beauty queens, 1960s swimsuit models, barbershop culture, couples donning church clothes and music icons such as James Brown and Otis Redding are presented in the various categories, though it’s not always apparent why some pieces are placed in certain sections.

Overall, the juxtaposition between the historic (women clad in frilly white dresses and sun hats in 1938 Louisiana) and contemporary photos (a striking portrait of Michelle Obama taken in 2006) works to draw parallels between past and present notions of what is beautiful and to reference continuing themes of aesthetic ideals within African American culture.

In 1908, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority became America’s first Greek-letter organization established by Black college women. Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. is a sisterhood composed of women who have consciously chosen this affiliation as a means of self-fulfillment through volunteer service. Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. cultivates and encourages high scholastic and ethical standards; promotes unity and friendship among college women; alleviates problems concerning girls and women; maintains a progressive interest in college life; and serves all mankind through a nucleus of more than 260,000 women in the United States, the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa.