A museum centered on Art + Education + Social Justice through the lens of Africa + the diaspora

M’Dear: The Black Maternal

On View: May 5 – October 29, 2023

Location: MoCADA Abolition House, House 7A Nolan Park, Governors Island

Curator: Crystal Whaley


M’Dear: The Black Maternal is a multimedia exhibition featuring a wide breadth of rising women-identified artists whose works, which include paintings, photography, textile art, video, audio/oral pieces, and installations, honor the power of the great Mother—the Matriarch—the ever-present Black maternal principle centered prominently throughout the African diaspora.

Through this exhibition artists address access to and denial of agency, and expression of identity while exploring the roots of invisibility, themes of silence, co-opting, and trivializing the concept of the Great Mother for amusement’s sake. Resisting stereotypes, M’Dear exists within a context of the gender power duality of masculine/feminine, as she is the matriarch often giving final counsel while imparting the loving guidance of a nurturing mother. She expresses power and leadership through her unwavering perseverance.

Curated by Crystal Whaley and featuring the works from A.Cauthen, Adreinne Waheed, Armisey Smith, Crystal Whaley, Danielle Scott, Djassi DaCosta Johnson, Jessica Valoris, Kay Hickman, Kimberly Mayhorn, Laura James, Lavette Ballard, Nicky Quamina-Woo, Olaronke Akinmowo, Rhonisha Franklin, Sade Boyewa El, Saudia Jones, Shawn Rhea, and Stacey Billups.


“Mariah Brandon Will Arrive Tirectly” by Shawn Rhea. Collage, 16 inches x 12 inches


Photo by Adreinne Waheed.


Still from “Gala & Luna” a dance film by Djassi DaCosta Johnson


Crystal Whaley is a multiple EMMY Award-winning creative producer in film/TV/digital and branded content. She’s developed and produced award-winning scripted and non-scripted TV series, feature and shorts films, commercials, music videos, and nationally syndicated and Peabody-nominated documentaries for TLC, Showtime, MSNBC, Discovery +, Netflix, and a 2022 EMMY award-winning digital series, for Frontlines/PBS.

Crystal is also a photographer and curator of the annual Black history exhibition, “For Us, By Us” at The Long Gallery Harlem in February 2017- 20, ALTAR: Prayer, Ritual, Offering at Photoville NYC in Sept. 2018 & Photoville Los Angeles April 2019 and the principal curator for the HBCU’s Art Talk/Date: Kerry James Marshall at the MET Breuer in 2017.

Crystal made her directorial debut with her feature length documentary film, ‘The Sound She Saw’ that showcases contemporary and ground-breaking Black women photographers revealing the history of struggle while celebrating their and answering the critical question: What happens when a Black woman photographer has the agency and the control to reverse the gaze and see the world through her unique lens?

The photographers featured, challenge the status quo by collecting redefining the narrative image by image. The film is currently screening in multiple film festivals and museums.

Crystal is a visual storyteller, culture curator and activist where Black women and girls are at the center. She’s committed to telling and amplifying beautiful, authentic, thought provoking stories and exhibitions that spark conversation and activate change.

Crystal is a member of the Producers Guild of America (PGA), a Los Angeles native, an honorary New Yorker and a proud Howard University alumnus.


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