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On The Stein Salon: What can we learn from the great networks of history?

When Ernest Hemmingway came to Paris in 1921, he hadn’t published any of the books that would earn him a reputation as one of the influential authors of the 20th century.

At the time, he had worked two stints as a newspaper reporter. Sandwiched in between was his service as a volunteer ambulance driver for the Red Cross in Italy during the first World War.

Ernest Hemingway would go on to write seven novels (although only four were published in his lifetime) and would win the 1954 Nobel Prize for literature.

Many things contributed to Hemmingway’s success as an author; one undeniable factor would be the network of people he met and collaborated with in Paris whilst living there in the early 1920s.

A network of equally impressive artists including Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso and F. Scott Fitzgerald. We know this group today as the Lost Generation.

The name Lost Generation was given to the group by Gertrude Stein. Hemmingway in his 1964 memoir, A moveable feast, reports that Stein said to him: “All of you young people who served in the war. You are all a lost generation.”

Gertrude Stein, a respectable artist and writer in her own light, had moved to Paris at the beginning of the century. It was in her Parisian salon, frequented by many artists and writers alike that Hemmingway and a host of others would meet.

Gertrude Stein came to Paris in 1903 to join her brother, Leo Stein, who had been living in France for a few years. The two began collecting art from then-unknown artists, including the soon-to-be very famous, Pablo Picasso.

In 1909, Stein began living with Alice B Toklas, her lifelong partner and the muse for her one commercially successful piece of literature “The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas.” It was with Alice that Stein hosted the artists and writers that would define what we now refer to as modern literature and art.

Gertrude met Pablo Picasso in 1905 after seeing his artwork at a gallery in Paris.

She and her brother soon began to collect his artwork and Stein became a patron of his.

In 1914 when Leo Stein moved to Italy, the siblings divided their art collection, Leo left all but one Picasso painting to Stein. It was in Stein’s residence that Pablo Picasso would meet Henri Mattise. Pablo and Mattise would go on to have a rich friendship and rivalry as artists.

The second example of a friendship sparked by a chance meeting in Stein’s Salon would be the one between Hemmingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald moved to France in 1924 with his wife, Zelda Fitzgerald.

At the time of his move, he had already written two wildly successful novels: The Side of Paradise (1920) and The beautiful and damned (1922). His most successful book to date, The Great Gatsby would be written during his time in Europe, although it would not gain popularity till decades after his death.

When Hemmingway read The Great Gatsby, he said:

When I had finished the book I knew that no matter what Scott did, nor how he behaved, I must know it was like a sickness and be of any help I could to him and try to be a good friend. He had many good, good friends, more than anyone I knew. But I enlisted as one more, whether I could be of any use to him or not. If he could write a book as fine as The Great Gatsby I was sure that he cold write an even better one.”

During their friendship, Hemingway would often offer advice to F Scott Fitzgerald, constantly encouraging him to write more novels as he believed these to be a more sincere expression of Fitzgerald’s abilities.

In this essay, I have spoken of Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, Matisse and Picasso; but these are only a small scratching of the names that would eventually find their way to the Stein Salon. Ezra Pound moved to Paris in 1920 where he mentored an unknown Hemmingway. E. E. Cummings and T.S Elliot are also known visitors of the Stein Salon.

The Salon played a great part in elevating the art movement that would be coined modernism.

One obvious lesson we can draw from the salon is the power that a great network can have on itself. It is no coincidence that the movement for modern art and modern literature has roots in the same place.

Stein often described her writing as pulling inspiration from the Cubist movement of Picasso and Paul Cezanne, both artists whose work she collected generously.

Stein offered literary advice to Hemmingway as Hemmingway offered to Fitzgerald and when Stein could not, Ezra Pound lent himself as a mentor.

There is also something to be said about the conversations that happen among such promising creatives and what those conversations mean for their art.

Many of the names featured in this essay experienced some sort of evolution around the time they spent frequenting the Salon.

We can also identify the mutual benefit of having a friend with whom you can engage in healthy rivalry. Competition, one in which all parties possess respect for each other, is a very powerful tool for inspiring brilliance and self-improvement.

A good network will produce good work. It is inevitable.

Perhaps It wouldn't be ludicrous to say that the Afropolitan Network is one akin to that of the Stein Salon. From this network, the Nobel Laureates of the future will be born.

It is not ludicrous to say this because indications of it already exist.

Amongst the founding members of the Afropolitan network are individuals who have redefined what we imagine black excellence to be. Our members have pushed their industries forward by leaps and bounds.

The mandate at Afropolitan has always been to build a network. Unlike the Stein Salon, this network will not be tied to a single physical place but will exist across the World through the internet.

The goal for this network is to pull together the best of Africa and its Diaspora in a bid to create a new state. This network will not stop art, it will also bring together people from technology, finance and media.

We are in Phase 1 of our 4-Phase plan to create a network state. We are building and expanding a  network of people that understand and believe in the dream of the world we are trying to build. We will drop an NFT campaign outlining mythology for our new nation. Afropolitan NFTs will also grant members a digital passport, alongside access to events and future value-added services.

I'm in. What's next?

We are embarking on a long and taxing journey. Our destination may be clear, but the path is uncertain. As we launch Phase 1, Afropolitan is looking to onboard the most dedicated and ambitious people to join our fledgling Network. We care less about what you've done and more about who you aspire to become and how we can all be better together.

To get involved, join our mailing list first to get a sense of our community. You can also learn more about us on our website by following us on Twitter. More to come soon.

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