With little fanfare, Black Film Center/Archive archivist Ronda Sewald pulled gloves onto her hands. She carefully opened the large box sitting on the end of the table, and slid out a faux chimney made of cardboard and covered in signatures.
“And here we have the handprints of Maya Angelou,” she said.
Casper Banjo was a Memphis-born artist who specialized in embossed print and mixed media artwork. One of his projects was a version of the Hollywood walk of fame, but instead of plaster, it was handprints made of graphite and Vaseline. The BFC/A houses a selection of these prints.
“I think I might faint,” said Elijah Pouges, a senior in The Media School.
“Faint that way!” said Sewald, laughing and gesturing away from the fragile print.
Everyone pulled out their phones and camera apps and crowded around the prints with looks of disbelief on their faces.
The reveal was part of a Show & Tell Workshop on Friday by Greg de Cuir Jr., a film curator undertaking a week-long research residency at IU. De Cuir also curated a film series earlier in the week.
De Cuir spent his time combing through the archive, looking particularly closely at the history of black film festivals at IU and around the world. IU’s first black film festival was held in 1983 by Phyllis Klotman, the founder and champion of the BFC/A.
“I don’t know how many other black film festivals were happening at that time,” de Cuir said. “It could be one of the first. It’s definitely worth further research to see what IU’s place is in black film.”
De Cuir said he is interested in film festivals because it’s one of the newer and more interesting areas of film studies. The archive has programs from the first few black film festivals sponsored by IU and editing prints from Black Camera, a BFC/A journal also started by Klotman.
De Cuir passed around the prints and joked, “This is back when cut and paste was actually cut and paste!”
De Cuir expressed wishes to return to IU and further study the archive’s contents. He said he would love to see an exhibit of Banjo’s prints sometime in the future, and hopes to see a student-made documentary of the BFC/a someday.