From November 01 2019 to December 06 2019
(body of work)
(body of work) is a series of eight objects of adornment/restraint mounted on blackened wood panels. The neckpieces reference African diasporic identity as it relates to the enslavement of African pieces in the Americas. The materials used in the work (dried corn, weathered leather, rusted steel, and human hair, to name a few) were chosen to evoke the texture and feeling of that dark period, as it has been represented in countless films and literature.
I have created an individual brass mount for each piece and attached it at neck height to a black panel, which alludes to the absent body and suggests a museological display.
With this work, titled simply (body of work), I am posing a complex set of questions without offering any easy answers. How do historical narratives shape our identities? To what extent do we choose to display certain aspects of our identities? By creating a series of objects of adornment referencing restraints and materials used during the period of enslavement of African peoples in the Americas, I am examining my own relationship to this story. As a descendent of some of these enslaved peoples, I have grown up with the understanding that this historical narrative is an important part of who I am, or perhaps more accurately, how the world sees me.
When I first began this work, the question that was foremost in my mind was, “Why do we wear this identity so proudly?” It seemed to me that we were constantly returning to this story in an attempt to show our strength as survivors of this horrific period. The symbols of slavery presented as jewellery objects were an expression of this pride. As I went deeper into the work, however, I began to wonder if I made these objects to express the relief I would feel in taking them off, in shedding the burden of history that has been placed upon me. The answer, of course, lies somewhere in the middle. In the end, I am presenting some of the complicated emotions I feel when reflecting on this period of history: pride and shame, pity and empathy, horror and fascination, loss and belonging.