Art & Race Block
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Town Destroyer explores the ways we look at art and history at a time of racial reckoning. The story focuses on a dispute over historic murals depicting the life of George Washington: slaveowner, general, land speculator, President, and a man Seneca leaders called “Town Destroyer” after he ordered their villages destroyed during the Revolutionary War.
The murals, at San Francisco’s George Washington High School, were painted in 1936 by leftwing artist Victor Arnautoff, a student of Diego Rivera. The murals both praise Washington and—rare for the time—critically depict him overseeing his slaves and directing the bloody seizure of Native lands. Most controversial is a provocative image of a dead Indian—life-size, eye-level, and at the center of the school.
Opponents of the murals, led by Native American parents, demand the School Board order them painted over. For them, the murals’ graphic depictions of slavery and genocide are racist and harm students, Native students in particular. Defenders of the murals warn of the dangers of censoring priceless works of art, and urge the Board to `teach the murals.’ Heated debates spill into the community and make national headlines. The fight—taking place in the wake of battles over Confederate monuments across the U.S.—becomes a catalyst for a national discussion about censorship, reparations, generational trauma, the ways in which America’s history of genocide and slavery is taught and memorialized.
Director: Alan Snitow & Deborah Kaufman
PATOU: In Black & White
With a career that spans over four decades and across the globe, Jamaican singer Pat Powell (Patou) is one of Australia’s most accomplished yet hidden vocal talents. He is the artist that everyone wants to work with – the singer’s singer who sings with 15 bands, including the ARIA award-winning Melbourne Ska Orchestra.
Born in the UK to Jamaican parents, Pat left the racism of the UK as soon as he could, although he ‘stupidly’ found his way to Australia with its own racism issues. Father to four children from different mothers with varying ethnic backgrounds, Pat’s children all identify differently and discuss racism and where identity comes from.
Director: Fiona Cochrane