An artist book and culinary experience that invites reflection on the meaning of Afro-Asian solidarity and community.
The Color Curtain Project is a series of dinner parties and art book presentations that bring individuals of African- and Asian-American identities together. By breaking bread, learning history, and sharing stories, the project encourages constructive dialogue around political and social justice challenges that entwine African- and Asian-American experiences today.
The project takes its name from The Color Curtain (1956), a travelogue by Richard Wright, who authored the American literary classics Native Son and Black Boy. The Color Curtain summarizes Wright’s observations as an African-American reporter covering the Bandung Conference — an epic convening in April 1955 held in Bandung, Indonesia between twenty-nine Asian and African countries eager to establish a coalition denouncing racism, colonialism, and nuclear war. The Color Curtain is not a comprehensive or technical account of what transpired in Bandung; Wright did not delve into the political and bureaucratic dealings between statesmen. Rather, The Color Curtain offers a personal snapshot of his experience witnessing the collision of Afro-Asian identities, and their collective struggle to find political, economic, and social freedom after many decades of colonial rule.
In April 1955, twenty-nine Asian and African countries gathered in Bandung, Indonesia to take stock of the geopolitical dynamics at the time, and to forge a new coalition denouncing racism, colonialism and nuclear war. Over sixty years later, the Bandung Conference remains an overlooked historical artifact, but its themes, achievements, and shortcomings still reverberate today. To honor and reflect on the intricate connections between past and present, NY- and DC-based scholars and artists began The Color Curtain Project, a series of dinner parties and art book presentations that convene individuals of African- and Asian-American identities for constructive dialogue. Named after Richard Wright's reporting on the Bandung Conference, The Color Curtain Project encourages participants to break bread and candidly discuss political and social justice challenges that entwine the contemporary Afro-Asian-American experience.
Many people do not know about The Bandung Conference or The Color Curtain, but their themes, achievements, and shortcomings still reverberate today. The Color Curtain Project aims to celebrate and critically reflect on the connections between past and present by offering a contemporary interpretation over dinner and urging guests to think about what has changed, if at all, between the Afro-Asian diasporic relationship since 1955.
The Color Curtain Project is a collaboration between Washington, DC- and New York-based scholars, artists, and entrepreneurs.
At first blush, the Color Curtain Project dinners resemble the grandeur of the state dinner: excessively lavish affairs attended by diplomats to demonstrate their stature and reaffirm geopolitical relationships. But upon a closer look, the Color Curtain Project dinners break away from the rigid protocols of the state dinner by inserting counter-narratives — an unconventional seating arrangement; floral decor rich with symbolism; the sharing and passing of plates; recognition of chefs and the story behind their ingredients — that foster a spirit of informality, and in turn, a sense of community and family.
The first Color Curtain Project dinner and art book presentation was held at the Eaton Workshop in Washington, DC on September 29, 2018. Sixty guests intermingled and celebrated their distinct and shared identities as immigrants, Washingtonians, creatives, policy practitioners, New Yorkers, transplants, African-Americans, entrepreneurs, community advocates, Asian-Americans, among others. Throughout the night, they debated and shared perspectives about issues that Bandung Conference diplomats also grappled with in 1955: displacement, nuclear disarmament, and the true meaning of freedom.
The Color Curtain Project box set includes the artist book from the dinner and a second book which reflects and continually reimagines the dinner in a codex format.
It is an edition of 20.
The Color Curtain Project dinners are complemented by a hand-made art book published by Passenger Pigeon Press. A book was presented to every dinner guest as their guide through the evening; each chapter of the book signifies a dinner course. Each book features newspaper clippings and other ephemera about the Bandung Conference, photographs of Wright's first drafts of The Color Curtain, and interactive pages that invite guests to write, scratch, cut, and talk as the meal progresses. Books are unique for each Color Curtain project dinner; guests are encouraged to take their books home as a keepsake and for further meditation.
After each dinner, a second book is made and the two codexes are presented as a box set. In the first iteration of this series, the second book includes notes from the guests; recipes for all of the dishes created by Chefs Erik Bruner-Yang, Selassie Atadika, Shola Olunloyo,
Ke’van McCray, and Tim Ma; an essay by curator Nicole Kaack which first appeared in the Brooklyn Rail; and a pop-up diagram about nuclear policy by analyst Karim Kamel.
The Washington, DC Color Curtain Project art book was presented at the Printed Matter Inc.'s 2018 NY Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1 and is available to the public in the collections of the the The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University, The Center for Books Arts, and the Brizdle-Schoenberg Special Collections Center at the Ringling College of Art and Design.