Not For Sale Photo by Chris Gardner


Not For Sale Battles Consumerism And Commodification Of Culture

March 24, 2023

In Dixwell, New Haven, NXTHVN – a community art institution opens its doors to a new exhibition: Not For Sale. Curated by Cornelia Stokes and Kiara Cristina Ventura, it celebrates the cultural impact of Black and Brown communities.

When we talk about cultural appropriation, there’s the occasional chime back about the blurry line between appropriation and appreciation. Is it really bad if it brings attention to your culture? What are people who exist out of the culture but have a deep care for it? A key facet in appropriation is an awareness of colonial prowess and the racialized power dynamics at play. 

Ultimately, if something as personal as culture and cultural heritage is not yours or an experience you can relate to, you do not need to be the voice that creates awareness. It also plays into the need for validation and visibility to come from voices that have considered you as ‘other’. I believe cultural visibility and stories should always have the face of those within the spaces even if accompanied by people outside these cultures.

Cornelia Stokes and Kiara Cristina Ventura
Photo by Ashlynn “ Thee Female Hustla” Savannah.

This is the intention of Stokes and Ventura. A clear display of the inherent value in and of these communities while ‘preserving and protecting the cultures, people, and communities we come from’ says Ventura. The exhibition features works dby Anthony Akinbola, LaKela Brown,David Hammons, Lucia Hierro, Arthur Jafa, Emmanuel Massillon and Sable Elyse Smith. Working with a number of materials and media forms like bamboo, silk durags and film. Not For Sale is keen on establishing what it is about culture and cultural staples that make them integral to the spaces they represent. As Stokes says, the exhibition serves as a form of resistance ‘between stereotypical stigmas and the capitalist economy that historically profits from Black and Brown communities’.The visual nature of the exhibition puts commodification in plain sight. Visual interpretations of how the everyday fits into these spaces because they are necessities familiar for the communities that require them. It highlights the need. Commodifying culture bypasses cultural relevance and necessity instead creating a trophy case of culture repackaged as something cool and new driving up the prices of commodities, homes and businesses. Not For Sale is exhibiting through to May 14th, 2023.

Love is the Message, The Message is Death Video Still (2016) Arthur Jafa
Courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery.


Not For Sale image by Chris Gardner