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From the Art Director

When I hear the word Renaissance, my mind is instantly flooded with visions of cherubs and memories of my art professors waxing poetic about the genius of Da Vinci. But like most stories that have been told and retold, what we think of as the Renaissance movement is actually more complicated than the version most of us know.

In my schooling the Renaissance was neatly packaged and spoon fed to me as a specific time in history marking the rebirth of European culture after the dark ages, and bringing in ideas of individualism, rationality, and secularism. The Renaissance is largely considered to have happened during the 15th and 16th century, when in actuality it spans a roughly 300-year period. That’s older than the United States as we know it. Additionally, the ideas, architecture and art of the Renaissance were only accessible to the very wealthy, having virtually no effect on the lower and middle class.

I was also led to believe it was the Italians who spawned the Renaissance by pulling themselves up by their own boot straps. It wasn’t until I began my research for this edition that I realized this was not the case at all. In fact, without the financial and intellectual contributions of the Islamic empire there would be no Renaissance.

In the 16th century, the Ottoman Empire was the cultural and economic powerhouse of the region, conducting trade and greatly influencing Renaissance scholars via assisting the European world in rediscovering Greek and Roman aesthetics, literature and architecture. The basic notions and stereotypical ideas of what the renaissance is has been filtered through the lense of colonialism and white supremacy. Contributions from people of color have been and continue to be downplayed. In a way, I feel a little betrayed by my college professors.

One may have to dig a bit deeper, but the narrative of the greatness of people of color are out there. Yes, the Renaissance was an amazing time of intellectualism and amazing art, but its creators did not act alone. No great movement exists as an island to itself. We must take the time to zoom out and acknowledge that for better or worse our histories are intertwined, and no rebirth can happen without first knowing who led us here in the first place.

And that’s what I want this edition to convey. That the history and ideas of renaissance are expansive, complicated and diverse. For every whitewashed telling of history, there is an undercurrent of black and brown artist and great thinkers who have contributed greatly to our world and continue to do so. I encourage future generations to continue to dig deeper and listen to the story of our ancestors. Learn from our histories and use them as building blocks. Only then will we truly see rebirth, revival and reclamation.

Maya Vivas
Art Director, Brilliant Media

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