A convertible overflowing with people sits in a city street in this color photo. The people wear natural hairstyles and 60s-era casual clothing. Children and adults crowd around outside the car.
Kwame Brathwaite. Untitled (Garvey Day, Deedee in Car), about 1965, printed 2018. The Art Institute of Chicago, promised gift of Dr. John E. Ellis. Credit: © The Kwame Brathwaite Archive

“Things Well Worth Waiting For” is a small-scale, deeply comprehensive exhibition that transports you to a different time where women wore flamboyant dresses, men drove classic cars, segregation prevailed, and the power of soul music was palpable. Photojournalist and activist Kwame Brathwaite was there, documenting it all—in words and in photographs. 

Occupying two galleries at the Art Institute of Chicago, the exhibition provides insight into over 70 years of Brathwaite’s work, through photographs, magazines, albums, and color slides from the 1960s to the 1980s, many of which are on view for the first time in decades. Here Bob Marley’s performance at the Wonder Dream concert in Kingston, Jamaica, and Stevie Wonder’s Zaire ’74, a music festival organized alongside the “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, all come to life.

Kwame Brathwaite. Untitled (Stevie Wonder Headlines Human Kindness Day at the National Mall, Washington, DC), 1975. The Kwame Brathwaite Archive and Philip Martin Gallery.
© The Kwame Brathwaite Archive

Passionate about music, Brathwaite traveled far and wide to review performances for publications—from the UK’s Blues & Soul to Japan’s Adlib. More than the energy of the headliners, he captured the social and cultural dynamics of his time. Importantly, he showed Black culture at its essence. Immersed in the inner-workings of the entertainment industry (he was a musician and event organizer), he never shied away from documenting the everyday. African diaspora-inspired fashion, natural hairstyles, and statement jewelry were widely featured in his work, serving as a means to social change, equity, and liberation. In an effort to deconstruct the ideology of white aesthetics, he ignited the radical “Black is Beautiful” movement.

Titled after the headline Brathwaite wrote for his review of Stevie Wonder’s 1976 album, Songs in the Key of Life, “Things Well Worth Waiting For” encapsulates the 1970s as a period of risk and uncertainty, but also opportunity and a powerful beacon for change. 

“Kwame Brathwaite: Things Well Worth Waiting For”
Through 7/24: Mon 11 AM-5 PM, Thu 11 AM-8 PM, Fri-Sun 11 AM-5 PM, Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan, artic.edu/exhibitions, adults $25 ($35 Fast Pass, $22 Illinois residents, $20 Chicago residents), seniors 65+, students, and teens 14-17 $19 ($29 Fast Pass, $16 Illinois residents, $14 Chicago residents), children under 14 free

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