February 10, 2022

Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Visual Arts presents Black Mother and a Q&A with filmmaker Khalik Allah

The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Visual Arts at Princeton University presents the film Black Mother (2018) and a Q&A with award-winning filmmaker Khalik Allah as the first event in the Black Earth Film Series. The series is organized by Princeton’s Dorothy Krauklis ’78 Professor of Visual Arts Deana Lawson in collaboration with Tina Campt, Visiting Professor in the Program in Visual Arts and the Department of Archaeology. The screening and Q&A will take place on Monday, February 14 at 6:00 p.m. in the James Stewart Film Theater at 185 Nassau Street on the Princeton campus. All guests are required to register in advance through University Ticketing. Guests are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to the maximum extent, which now includes a COVID booster for all those eligible to receive it. Additionally, all guests must wear a mask when indoors. Individuals in need of access accommodations are invited to contact the Lewis Center at at least one week prior to the event date.

pregnant Black mother wearing long white gown reclines on bed and holds a tall leafy plant

An image from Khalik Allah’s award-winning film, “Black Mother.” Photo courtesy of Khalik Allah

Black Mother is an audio-visual love letter and ode to Jamaica and its people from the red-light districts to the lush rain forests. The film was nominated for a number of awards and honors and won the Bruce Sinofsky Prize – Honorable Mention at the Montclair Film Festival, the Prix de l’expèrimentation at the Montréal Festival of New Cinema, an Indiewire Critics Poll Award, and Best Departures Feature at the Indie Memphis Film Festival. Vanity Fair listed the film as one of “The 15 Best Movies of 2019,” and praised the film as “an energetic meditation on maternity and identity that stirs the soul.”

khalik in profile tilts head forward, seated by brick wall

Photo courtesy Khalik Allah

Allah first began using a camera to photograph members of the Wu-Tang Clan before moving on to street photography and portraiture. Allah incorporates his passion for photography into his documentary filmmaking, with The Village Voice describing his first film, Field Niggas (2015), a documentary about the people found on the corner of 125th Street and Lexington Avenue in Harlem, New York, as “the most striking sort of urban portraiture.” Vanity Fair describes Allah’s style of documentary filmmaking as “an audio track mismatched from the visual landscape just so, so that words and images stand alone while also together, ricocheting and complicating each other.”

The Black Earth Film Series is a meditation on Earth’s landscape through a deep dive into one of the primary materials that supports and sustains it: soil. It engages soil in its most elevated state, as nutrient rich black soil that nurtures and enriches a multitude of species. On the other hand, it hones in on Earth as a social ecology inhabited, shaped, and enlivened by Black genius. The series will continue with Rob Herring screening his film The Need to Grow (2018) along with a Q&A via Zoom on March 1; filmmakers Kahlil Joseph, Onye Anyanwu and Bradford Young in conversation with Lawson and Campt around the BLKNWS film project and Young’s film REkOGNIZE on March 22; and John Akomfrah on March 29.

Lawson, a member of the Princeton faculty since 2012, was the recipient of the 2020 Hugo Boss Prize awarded by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation by a jury of international critics and curators, the first photographer to win this prestigious biennial award. She received an honorarium of $100,000 and a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in 2021. Lawson’s work was included in the 2017 Whitney Biennial, New Photography 2011 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and she had a solo exhibition at The Art Institute of Chicago in 2015. She has participated in group exhibitions at The Studio Museum, Harlem; MoMA P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center; Artists Space in New York; and the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art in Atlanta. Her work has been published in The New Yorker, TIME Magazine, BOMB, The Collector’s Guide to New Art Photography, Photo District News, Time Out New York, Contact Sheet #154, and PQ Journal for Contemporary Photography. In addition to the Hugo Boss Prize, Lawson is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the John Gutmann Photography Fellowship, a Rema Hort Mann Foundation Grant, an Aaron Siskind Fellowship Grant, and a New York Foundation for the Arts Grant.

In addition to being a visiting professor at Princeton this year, Campt is Owen F. Walker Professor of Humanities and Modern Culture and Media at Brown University and a Research Associate at the Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre (VIAD) at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa. She is the author of four books: Other Germans: Black Germans and the Politics of Race, Gender and Memory in the Third Reich (2004); Image Matters: Archive, Photography and the African Diaspora in Europe (2012); Listening to Images (2017); and A Black Gaze (2021).

The film series is supported through the John Sacret Young ’69 Lecture Series fund. Sacret Young, who passed away in June 2021, was a 1969 graduate of Princeton and an author, producer, director, and screenwriter. He was nominated for seven Emmy Awards and seven Writers Guild of America (WGA) Awards, winning two WGA Awards. He was perhaps best known for co-creating, along with William F. Broyles Jr., China Beach, the critically acclaimed ABC-TV drama series about medics and nurses during the Vietnam War, and for his work on the television drama The West Wing. Young also received a Golden Globe and a Peabody Award, and his original mini-series about the Gulf War, Thanks of a Grateful Nation, was honored with his fifth Humanitas Prize nomination.

To learn more about this event, the Program in Visual Arts, and the over 100 performances, exhibitions, readings, screenings, concerts, and lectures presented each year at the Lewis Center, most of them free, visit

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