A Hot Wind—Perspective on “the Smack” by TheeAmazingGrace

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Dat smack woulda cost me my freedom. Wouldn’ta been funny if it were you or you or me. Woulda been no excuses. No protection. Woulda been the end of the world as we know it. Woulda perpetuated generational trauma. Woulda slapped cuffs on wrists like barbed wire. Woulda weighed me down in the wata like dem kluckas did Emit. Woulda lit me on fire while still breathing. Woulda knocked my teeth out cold. Woulda stuffed me inside undersized cell blocks. Woulda had me behind barz and guilty, behind barz with no pity, behind barz and awaiting trial, behind barz wishing on a stall, behind barz and chanting sad, sad, same songz of freedom #freemyniggaGrace 

Dat smack reeked of privilege. Dat smack woulda took my dignity. Woulda took my livelihood. Woulda got me lynched where I stood. 

Dat smack exposed a bloody nerve. Dat smack showed that we all just babies learning to crawl. Dat smack was deafening like our ancestors wildest screams as their bodies muffled the sounds before hitting the ocean floor. Or the haunting splash of salt wata up against the sides of those wretched ships carrying precious Black cargo-precious Black carnage.

Dat smack caused blunt forced trauma to my innards. Cut me deep to my heart so sad and swift. Suffocated me like a hot wind. 

And fuck you if you say that smack made ALL BLACK PEOPLE LOOK BAD. We are a community not a cult. That smack revealed a painful truth we all done had. Showed, there’s more ways to grow than just one. Almost got wrapped up in the hype. Called on my ancestors for a lil heart to heart-a lil Black light. They reminded me of the powers in my lineage-Girl Real With Her Vintage. Me being one of the matriarchs to start healing thang. They say, “Tend to yo wounds. Heal the lows, vibrate through the noise cause ain’t no recoverin’ from bleeding to death.” —TheeAmazingGrace

Mr. Jute

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I call him Mr. Jute, the 2nd mask I made in the Antebellum South Afrikanface Mask Collection for the codes in his fabric are durable, tough and textured. His eyes are spiritual and possess life times, stoic, peaceful, calm. The epitome of resilience, stillness. It’s the second mask I made in the Antebellum Tribal Afrikanface Collection. Check out my process in the images below. Now on view @pavaagallery.

Mr. Jute, 2021, Gracie Berry ©
Burlap

Mookies Mouth

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Mookies Mouth, 2021, Gracie Berry ©

The first mask I made in the Antebellum Tribal Afrikanface Collection. Mookies Mouth also represents the process I use to center Afrocentric features in my art. I named this after one of my brothers who was often a victim of racial jokes and taunts during our time in an all white foster home. To glorify Black Afrikan features in my art is so important to me because it not only heals a big part of my own families lineage, but is shared healing for others that’ve experienced similar things. Check out my process in the image below over the course of several weeks. Now on view @pavaagallery

Beginnings

Antebellum Tribal Afrikanface Masks the Inception By Gracie Berry

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Meaning and Thangs

These masked wallhangings are part of my ongoing collection, Antebellum Tribal Afrikanace Masks with a focus on the interrelationship of natural textile fabrics and Black Afrikans born in the Antebellum South and how that all ties into the vastness of the Afrikan diaspora throughout the world. Antebellum Tribal Afrikanface Masks tell so many stories of an Afrikan past, present and future generations in the American South whose cultural fabric and framework carried over literally from the continent and have held together the world around us because our stories are alive in our blood, our features, our ceremonies, our dialects, rituals, spiritual practices, traditions, our love.

Before I share about how the project came about, I can’t begin without thanking my little Big brother and ancestor David Berry who blessed me the idea through dream visitation. Identity, belonging, and heritage have long been recurrent themes for me especially when it comes to my art and spiritual practice. I didn’t always feel Afrikan or at least that I had the “right” to claim and Afrikan existence since I wasn’t born there. But I always knew that I was deeply connected to the continent. Thankfully my undergraduate experience and the teachings of Kwame Ture gave me the unshakable knowing of who I am. That I don’t have to accept a hyphenated version of myself. I am West Afrikan born in America. I don’t need to ask permission from anyone because my parents Afrikan DNA gives me that. I believe that all of my art is a direct reflection of my cultural lineage from the cosmos to the continent. 

The Dream

My brother David and I were sitting at a large, round, wooden table, in a sunny room with all the windows and doors open, the breeze was gentle like feather, house music vibrated the window panes, the walls, sipping libations as he showed me how to stay open to the faces revealing themselves through the fabric, that literally formed before my very eyes. We went on to talk heavy like we always do when he visits my dreams. We debate about what traditional Afrikan anything means or doesn’t mean these days and how devastating colonialism was in eradicating Black people, places and things. We talked about blood memory. We shared stories about how our families blood memory informs the deepest parts of us, no matter how far we feel removed from it. Blood memory is long established, connecting us to our art, languages, songs, spirituality, teachings etc., therefore can reveal itself through any generation.  Ase-O little Big bro!

The Masks

Each mask possess their own energy. I received more spiritual downloads and visits than I’d like to admit. But with guidance from the ancestral realm I was able to conjure each one up through and bring them into this life. Some of the faces feel familiar like we’ve met before. You’ll notice a variety fabric, colors, beads, shells etc., on each one. I was intentional about the fabric and other objects I used. For instance, I used burlap, cotton, and sheep’s wool because they were all considered “negro cloth” or “poor peoples fabric” in history. I call the full lip and centering of Afrikan feature in my work, Mookies Mouth. I wanted to glorify Afrikan rich features, so I named the process after one of my brothers to heal painful adolescent memories of racism toward him and I during our time in foster care.

Tradition in the Making

I want to be clear that my reference to the masks being traditional comes from my birth right. A framework that under my ancestors literal and spiritual tutelage allows me to create traditional art inherently. An Antebellum Tribal members perspective of masks made from the same fabric we tended that without us wouldn’t have grown the worlds economy and put the USA on the map. This is not to replace, erase or divide what we know as traditional on the continent, but to conquer the idea that identity is fluid and constantly expanding in the Afrikan diaspora. We are a community, vast and wide. To rid ourselves of the idea that Black Afrikan people born outside of the continent are somehow perceived as less valuable in our lived experiences, credible or spiritual, reeks of colonialism. My life’s work is to add to the many layers of an Afrikan existence that all people of Afrikan descent have an inherent right to. Antebellum Tribal Afrikanface Masks tell the stories of many generations whose cultural fabric and framework carried over literally from the continent to many other lands by brute force, still thriving and holding together the world around us. Keep vibrating higher!

To learn more a little more about enslaved Afrikan cloth history see references below:

https://www.mesdajournal.org/2012/slave-cloth-clothing-slaves-craftsmanship-commerce-industry/

“Slave Cloth”

http://www.inesdoujak.net/negro-cloth/

ShadowKeepers & Roothealers “The Original OG’s”

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Obatala female incarnation in the future. Created by Gracie Berry, circa 2019.

Peace beautiful people! My name is Gracie Nicole Berry. I’m West Afrikan  born in North Philadelphia Pennsylvania. I was raised by a fire house group of traditional “root healers” or “root doctors” depending on where you’re from. African Ancestry describes my mitochondrial descendants as a “haplogroup” that originated in Ghana then migrating to Sierra Leone before being stolen to Haiti to Norway South Carolina to Charlotte North Carolina before settling in Philadelphia. My mother’s side not only taught us the essentials of living off the land, but the lifelong lesson of honoring our descended ancestors in all the many ways we can while earthside. 

As a child I was fascinated by the rituals I witnessed. I once saw my great gram Freda heal a man that rented a room in my grem Grace house from gout. Great grem Freda, grem Grace, grem Grace’s husband, and one of my great uncles used 2 large sacks of potatoes, corn liquor, grease-that smelled like cows poop and peppermint oil, and loud, intentional prayers, and humming. All of the swelling that had once deformed his lower legs and feet were gone by morning. A moment in time that further shaped my visual understanding of what it meant to work with roots. The shortest moment in time, felt like an eternity and it what they did worked. As they kept watch throughout the night. I sat crouched in a  corner watching through where the door hinged. Candles kept the room dimly lit enough to see what was going on. I remember that poor old man tossing and turning, moaning in pain like he was drunk in his sleep, sweat from his body glistened and seemed to soak through puddles on the sheets. As day break I was sleepy, but could see that the potatoes that hung above the doorway, around the bed, and encased his legs and feet literally shrunk down to  prune sized balls in front of my very eyes. I just knew it was a miracle that that old man didn’t have scary elephant looking legs and feet anymore. No one was permitted to touch the potato droppings accept for my uncle who swept them into a pile on a piece of cardboard, emptied the contents into two large paper bags and left at my great grem Fredas instruction to bury the bags.

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My great grem Freda May in her younger years.

My great grem was known for moving throughout the community using practical and spiritual gifts passed down through many generations. She, my grem, and several aunts and uncles could also see and speak to ancestors and foresee things before they happened. They healed so many people in and round our community in miraculous ways. And somehow me and my cousins manage to hold both inherited and learned spiritual gifts like that of conjuring, veneration of the departed, using herbs as medicine, and channeling the elements out in nature.

It’s empowering to know the spiritual fortitude I come from-that flows in my DNA-one of the main reasons I choose to center my Blackness, un-apologetically before any of the margins. You may wonder what centering Blackness looks like…well for me, it reminds me of mindfulness meditation for Black folks. It’s become as natural as breathing. In a world where living while Black can literally cost us our lives. Where capitalism, patriarchy, and racial micro-aggression’s plague every facet of our worldly experience with or without our consent. Centering myself as a Black woman first and foremost helps me to choose what’s best for me always.

Prior to discovering my mother’s west Afrikan ancestry in 2018, themes of healing, identity, and sexuality have been prevalent in my personal history and artistic development. Passions cultivated during my undergraduate studies at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, the first degree granting, historically black college/university. Lincoln University’s very inception inspired me to dive deeper into my cultural lineage through the arts and to encourage others to do the same. To unpack parts of history our ancestors had long stowed away. To break generational trauma. My family of origin and community continue to be a great source of growth, pride, and self-discovery. I want any of the art I create to be steeped in truth. To inspire. To evoke all types of feelings. To energize. To interrogate systems of oppression. To renegotiate narratives as they relate to Black bodies and spaces.

If you get down to the exhibit, share your experience and hashtag so I can find you: #girlrillavintage #shadowkeepersandroothealers #shadowkeepersandroothealerstheoriginalogs

-In Warmest Sol,

TheeAmazingGrace

SHADOWKEEPERS & ROOTHEALERS “THE ORIGINAL OG’S” An homage and Afro-futurist altar to Obatala, Olokun and Orunmila, three of the eldest Orisha Gods from the Yoruba religion in West Afrika, involved in the creation of the universe, included are ancestors that have radically nourished, transformed and sustained the lives of those in the Afrikan Diaspora throughout the world.

I can’t begin acknowledgments of my experience as a station case artist at Lancaster’s Amtrak Station without first recognizing Ogun, the Orisha of iron and metalworkers. Ogun, aligns with all of the ancestors that were involved in building American and international railway systems that afford us the luxury of railway travel today. To the Pullman Porters, Black men and women who were often overworked, underpaid and racially defiled while fighting for their human right to exist. To those passengers of Afrikan descent that experienced segregated railway cars and unspeakable violence, those that lost their lives in struggle, and to those ancestors whose eternal flame will never burn out from the trail they’ve set ablaze in their fight toward freedom.

As a creative, community educator, and womanist my senses are often inundated with a ton of information. This particular project stretched me in ways I never understood before. The Public Art application phase, alone was daunting (well maybe not as daunting as single-handedly gluing hundreds of small shells onto large sculptures), but the written process was damn good practice in how to chronicle my creative accomplishments.

Researching the ancestors and Orisha triggered thoughts about how magnificent and powerful the Yoruba community is all over the world. Ancestors, books, dialogues, and research all influenced my visual works you see here today. Yoruba devotees, know that I’m still finding my way and have so much more to learn, but I’m happy to be welcomed in to do the work.

All of the Orisha sculptures you see are my personal, artistic depictions of a futuristic nature. I sited all references that helped me and maybe helpful to you at the end of this blog. Being an creative as well as an old soul, I wanted to create fresh images that highlight the power and influences of the eldest Orisha pantheon that may not be as popular as some of the other deities, but paved the way due to the jobs they were assigned to do on earth. You’ll notice the use of cowrie shells on several pieces in all sorts of shapes, symbols, and patterns. My idea was to convey “portals” or “wormhole” like projections all over their bodies with the cowrie shells serving as a conduit to connect us to deeper spiritual meaning and conciousness.

During meditation and dream states, I tapped into energy that surpassed 5th dimensional time and space. Ultimately, the Yoruba religion feels the most like home to me. And I trust that this exhibition will feel like home to you. That it will honor and uplift your spirits, ancestor, lineage, no matter how you feel about it.  

Aside, I want to add that the presence of cowrie shells in my work is synonymous to many things, but mainly a sense of abundance, power and vastness of the ocean and water in general. How limitless it would be to re-imagine, not only our skin, but the totality of our ascension beyond the flesh. Nigerian philosopher, writer, activist, professor of psychology Bayo Akomolafe reminds us that, “We like water are homeless.” Because water as he describes it, in its entanglement, its fluidity, its porousness, serves as an invitation to deconstruct oneself over and over again, to shape shift. Think about the oneness that takes place between the mortal and immortal in the pouring of ancestral libation. And how it’s not simply to remember our ancestors, but is a way to reconfigure ourselves and our members over and over.

Shadowkeepers & Roothealers “The Original OG’s” serves as an invitation to those from all walks of life to go beyond what is simply in front of them. To go beyond the physical form and experience. To go beyond the call and response narrative. Beyond solutions. Beyond duality. To listen without ears. To see without eyes. To conceive that we are more alike than we are different despite how colonization tries to separate us at every junction. We exist. We are the space between the stars. We come from ancestors that never left us. We come from someplace.

AFRO-FUTURISM AND SPIRITUALITY WHILE RE-IMAGINING TECHNOLOGY

I find myself seeking truth in all areas of my life. I give myself permission to redefine things meant to harm or hinder me. One of my dearest friends and mentors lovingly calls me, “Crossaline” because she knows that if there is ever a line that teeters on the edge of injustice I will cross the line of struggle for understanding, for liberation.

The term Afrofuturism dates back to the 1990’s, but is not really new in terms of civilization. In fact the concept is quite ancient or “Afrodiasporic”. Evidence of an “Afrikan future” can be linked to northeast Afrika, the ancient Egyptian Pyramids of Giza. One of the most incredible achievements on the face of the earth from the hands of ancient humankind to this day. It’s fascinating to know that ancient Afrikans built something so long ago that no modern human or technology, scholar has ever been able to reproduce. Remember, we come from someplace.

Afro-futurist works and theories in essence are steeped in connecting past, present, and future unlike many mainstream techno-culture and science-fiction works and theories that more often deny the past and blur lines of present and future. I see color and infinite possibility. I see us as spiritual beings having a human experience. I see a collective consciousness, coming to the edge of our own truths, honoring each other and our ancestors. I see us organizing in a myriad of ways. After all the very nature of Afro-futurism involves a deep honoring of ancestors and ancient societies. Moreover, how it celebrates movements that fight to acknowledge, empower, and humanize people of Afrikan descent.

WEST AFRIKAN MYTHOLOGY

My exhibit focuses on Afrikan Mythology because of all the spiritual paths it offers the most sophisticated understanding of creation and humanity. It permeates Cameroon, Benin, Gambia, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone just to name a few, and it has journeyed throughout the Afrikan holocaust Maafa to Brasil, Cuba, Guyana, Haiti, Trinidad, South American and other Caribbean countries. Yoruba traditions are rich in artistic fables and creation truths, and offers a pantheon of Orishas (gods and goddesses). It serves in similar ways that angels do in Christianity, Islamic and Jewish religions. For example, Olodumare ranks as the highest Orisha because he is the God of all creation by giving living beings their very breath. He crafted the universe inside a calabash and is as highly regarded as Brahma is to Hinduism’s or Elohim to the Christian ethos. Lastly, Dr. Jacob Olupona, a Nigerian professor, reminds us that, “Afrikan spirituality simply acknowledges that beliefs and practices touch on and inform every facet of human life, and therefore cannot be separated from the everyday or mundane.”

SHADOWKEEPERS THE ELDEST ORISHA

As I mentioned early on, I wanted to highlight the eldest Orisha. Given my theme of Afrofuturerism my focus was to focus on gender ambiguity of 2/3 of the Orisha as well as all of the prominent historical components that make them who they are. I sought Orisha that represented a world I could envision myself living in. Some sources both scholarly and spiritual pointed to Obatala being female, male or neither while others defined him as one or the other. Also, despite historical origins, women as well as men can be initiated to Obatala. One of the books I read examines deities to include that of Obatala. It further discusses some of the transformations experienced both in their Yoruba homeland and in the Americas.

To be transparent, I don’t fully understand why spirit charged me with creating a female incarnate of Obatala, but I’m very proud. I interpreted the information both as a  creative, scholar and spiritual being, after extensive research. I think Obatala bringing forth femininity is sort of profound timing, given the harsh, male dominated political climate we live in today. Also, the fact that there is so much more work to be done to bridge commonalities over the differences in much of the oral traditions in the Yoruba spiritual community. It makes my journey toward a healthy Yoruba practice even more meaningful.

OBATALA

According to oral traditions in ancient Ile Ifa, an ancient Yoruba city in south-western Nigeria Obatala’ is said to have an equal number of male paths as female paths. There for Obatala does not have a permanent gender incarnation and can be male, female or neither. Oba meaning king, Obatala is the king of the white cloth and the creator of all humankind. Obatala is known by their crown. Obatala is married to Yemonja, the goddess of life at the top of the ocean and the godmother of Orishas. This makes Obatala the god of all human beings without regard to gender. Obatala is revered for justice, truth, peace, and purity. Much like the image of Jesus, Obatala is the child of God Olodumare also known as Olorun. Olorun, permitted Obatala to descend from the heavens, create land over the waters, and mold human bodies from popo (mud and clay). In most spiritual traditions, God shows compassion because the human being errs; in Yoruba tradition, Obatala shows compassion because they themselves have erred.

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Obatala as female pathway. Created by Gracie Berry circa 2019. Photo by Shelby Wormley.

OLOKUN the people of southwestern Benin describe them as one of the most commanding Orisha and is respected as an authority over all other water deities. Olokun worship is especially noted in the cities of the Eco People in southwest Nigeria. In West African areas directly adjacent to the coast, Olokun takes a male form among his worshipers while in the hinterland, Olokun is a female deity. Olokun’s name is derived from the word “Olo” meaning “owner”, and “Okun” meaning “ocean”. Olokun is the owner of all deep, dark water at the bottom of the ocean. They hold the key to all the mysteries in the ocean and for what happened to our ancestors on those fateful journeys during Maafa across the Atlantic Ocean. They possess unmatched wisdom, governs over dreams, wealth, prosperity, meditation and healing past, present and future.

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Olokun as female pathway. Created by Gracie Berry circa 2019. Photo by Shelby Wormley.

ORUNMILA the people of southwestern Nigeria describe him as a prophet and oldest son of Olorun-ruler of the sky, creator of the sun. Orunmila is a master spiritualist who sees all and knows all. He holds the gift of wisdom and divination. He was present both at the beginning of creation and then again amongst the people as a prophet. Orunmila taught an advanced form of spiritual knowledge and ethics called Odu Ifa, during visits to earth in physical form or through his disciples. He is a prophet and maker of miracles and speaks to us through his disciples.

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Orunmila created by Gracie Berry circa 2019. Photo by Shelby Wormley.

ROOTHEALERS OUR BELOVED ANCESTORS

MAMA UBUNTU “HUMANESS” is the first of four dream inspired pieces from my first installment series AfrikanFace: Autochthonous Blood & Bone. Mama Ubuntu symbolizes the resilience of Winnie Mandela and many others during the wake of apartheid in South Afrika. She is a home (literally with each hanging from her waist) to those people of Afrikan descent who aren’t as well known in history, but without them the world wouldn’t be the same. They not only died in struggle, but kept the fight for freedom and justice alive.

To include:

  1. Afeni Shakur
  2. Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin
  3. Amiri Baraka
  4. Audrey Lorde
  5. Catherine obianuju Acholono
  6. Edgar Daniel Nixon
  7. George Schuyler
  8. Georgia Gilmore
  9. Imam Abdullah Haron
  10. James Baldwin
  11. Kwame Ture
  12. Marielle Franco
  13. Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson
  14. Ntozake Shange
  15. Otavia Butler
  16. Patrice Lumumba
  17. Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu
  18. Steve Biko
  19. Sun Ra
  20. Theodor Wonja Michael
  21. Thomas Sankara
  22. Tony Morrison
  23. Toussaint Louverture
  24. Zora Neale Hurston

AUSA UHSA “ITS RAINING” the second of four dream inspired pieces from my first installment series AfrikanFace: Autochthonous Blood & Bone. She was created to honor the people of Malakula Vanautu, a group of east Afrikans that migrated to northeast Australia, better known as the Mbotgate people where it is hot, rainy, and humid for most of the year.

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BIYAHA “WATER”
the third of four dream inspired pieces from my first installment series Afrikan Face: Autochthonous Blood & Bone. Biyaha honors deities of the ocean Olokun and Yemonja. How they lead those ancestors that perished at sea find their way during ascension at the middle passage.

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ZINA “SECRET SPIRIT” the last of four dream inspired pieces in my first installment series Afrikan Face: Autochthonous Blood & Bone. Zina is an ode to my younger self. The spirit and physical manifestation I imagined myself to be.

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EGUNGUN “MASQUERADE OF ANCESTOR REVERENCE”
my Egungun was constructed for the purpose of honoring those you see here today. Given the deeply secretive and spiritual nature of the Egungun spirits, I felt called to ask my ancestors for permission. They gave me the go ahead after only one night and one prayer. Conjuring an Egungun was the most difficult part of my journey because I had to dig deep to find authentic resources. My friends, family and two cats engage the Egungunin ways that let me know that his ancestral power is activated.

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REFERENCES

Books

Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi And Fantasy Culture by Ytasha L. Womack

Obatala: The Greatest and Oldest Divinity by Olayinka Adewuyi

Olokun of the Galaxy by Esther Iverem

On the Orishas’ Roads and Pathways: Obatalá, Odúa, Oduduwá by Miguel W. Ramos

Powers of the Orishas: Santeria & The Worship of Saints by Migene Gonzalez Wippler

The Handbook of Yoruba Religious Concepts by Baba If a Karade

The Way of the Orisa : Empowering Your Life Through the Ancient African Religion of Ifa by Philip Neimark and Philip J. Neimark

Yoruba-Speaking People’s of the Slave Coast of West Africa: Their Religion, Manners, Customs, Lawd, Etc. (Forgotten Books) by A.B. Ellis

Videos

Bayo Akomolafe-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIr2hOMVhIc&t=5s

Joseph Baba Ifa-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2-mheArnwk

Ogunda Meji 9-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOg14RZe50g&t=21s

Orunmila: Witness to All Choice of Destiny-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2cgfWZnAa8

Who is Obatala-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EcNe0i1Vcs

Who is Olokun-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGokjxjFgVY

Websites

http://www.aawiccan.org/site/Obatala.htl

https://ancientamerica.com/kusheshiobatala-the-inventor-of-ogam/

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/obatala-the-sweetest-god-_b_9817068

https://kwekudee-tripdownmemorylane.blogspot.com/2013/09/obatala-festival-honoring-orisha-deity.html

https://www.originalbotanica.com/blog/orisha-orula-orunmila-santeria/

https://www.originalbotanica.com/blog/the-orishas-olokun/

https://oshunschild.com/2018/08/01/reporting-from-cuba-review-on-the-orishas

Afrofuturism: Everything and Nothing

https://risdmuseum.org/manual/445_cloth_as_metaphor_in_egungun_costumes

http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0041-476X2017000200008

https://sohe.wisc.edu/research-development/centers-of-excellence/cdmc/textile-collection/textile-resources-2/featured-textiles

https://www.utpjournals.press/doi/abs/10.3138/uram.11.3.233

https://yagbeonilu.com/?s=obatala

https://yorubaperformance.weebly.com/the-image.html

Movement for Maisha

Deep belly breaths… meditation has always served me from a place of awareness. Like leaving the thoughts in my mind instead of trying to push them out. Or paying attention to where the thoughts go to inside my body. Like what thoughts invite more peace and smoother breaths and what does it feel like. I use movement and breath like that to commandeer a mindful state that tells a story. As creatives we are inundated with so much damn information all of the time, so we have to be intentional about sifting through the garbage to get to the Jewels. 

Over the weekend, I found a bracelet with my sister‘s name on it at a rural thrift shop far away from the big city where we’re from. I had actually gone back to get something for an art project when I came across the bracelet. There was no reason on earth that I should’ve ever found a bracelet with her name on it at that location, place and time. It was confirmation that were conn no matter how far apart. Also of a truth I had known all along. It’s wild how divinely guided both my art and life path is. How ancestors and spirit confirms and reaffirms every time. My sister and I share the same father, so we didn’t grow up together. In fact, I don’t even know if the spelling on the bracelet is the correct one, but I know its her name. Gives me joy to say it aloud. I haven’t seen her since 2007, after a painful truth, not mine to tell, came out about her and our father. Made me weep for my sister, but proud of the courage she was born with.

Movement is one of the many ways I work in this life to heal my families lineage in the next because I truly believe we can’t just honor ancestors and those to come simply with words, but we have to honor them in our actions, the ways we live out our lives, the ways we change traumatic, unhealthy patterns in our structure once normalized. When I push, pull, bend, flex, stomp it’s a cosmic wave of energy that does something for them too. This movement is my sister Maisha for her courage and innocence lost…

Bracelet I found with my sisters name on it

Honest to God, I just wrote my dad who is in prison, explaining to him many things, but mainly that we can’t continue to shrink into or behind shame and guilt. We can’t shrink because the pain can grow us if we let it. We can no longer hold ourselves hostage for bad choices we made or hide behind distorted mindsets and actions either. We have to do the work that will allow ourselves to be eternally free beyond this body, beyond this earth. Because the truth will set us free or on fire.

Warmest,

—TheeAmazingGrace

Moko Jumbie

Moko Jumbie for the codes in his fabric are one of protection, life lessons, cautionary tales and superstitions prevalent in the American South. It’s the 5th mask I made in the Antebellum Tribal Afrikanface Collection. I feel like my art instinctively connects to my past and to my loved ones. Moko Jumbies are stilt walkers. Moko means healer from central Afrika and Jumbie means ghost/spirit from the West Indies that may have come from the Kongo language word zumbi. Moko is also said to be a Yoruba Orisha God of retribution. Moko Jumbies are also thought to have come from West Afrikan tradition brought to the south by those in the Caribbean.

This mask is likely my favorite because it resonates with the energy and spirit of my ancestor and brother David Berry. I feel the same energy of protection, sacredness and timelessness. A presence strong, bold and statuesque just like my brother was in this life and most certainly is an ancestor in ethers. Check out my process in the images below. Now on view @pavaagallery.

Moko Jumbi, 2021, Gracie Berry ©

Untitled

I don’t know what to call this one, but I know it has something to do with cowrie consciousness and the Orisha Ogun. This mask is the 6th mask I made in the Antebellum Tribal Afrikanface Collection.

Sometimes when we create a work of art messages and meaning don’t always show up in the beginning. I didn’t know the story in her fabric would be connected to Ogun until earlier this week after reading a summary from “Surfaces: Color, Substances, and Ritual Applications on African Sculpture”. I was in awe that I somehow channeled all of the colors associated with Ogun. Literally, even down to the deep black of her face. It was a pleasant surprise to read line after line, tapping in deeper and deeper, but then again this work is spiritual so it makes so much sense. Ogun has been an impactful energy in my life from his inspiration from the Shadowkeepers & Roothealers exhibit at Amtrak. According to Yoruba creation mythology, Ogun led the orishas to Earth and helped them survive and adjust. He cuts paths through all thickets and obstacles with his machete. Ogun is a culture hero: he taught people ironworking like that of railroads etc., as well as magical and spiritual rituals, hunting and warfare. Now on view @pavaagallery.

Untitled, 2021, Gracie Berry ©

AfroDalit

I call her AfroDalit, for the story in her fabric was sourced from India. The 4th mask I made in the Antebellum Tribal Afrikanface Collection. I created this piece, one to show that Afrikans live all over the world and two to correlate shared experiences of the oppressive caste systems of Afrikans born in the American South to those born in India like (the Siddi” descendants of the Bantu people and the “Afro Dalit” better known as the “untouchables” of India who are darker skinned Indonesians). 

Did you know that Dr. Martin Luther King and his wife once visited the land of Mohandas Gandhi in 1959? After being introduced by another distinguished person as a fellow “untouchable”, he was at first offended. However, story has it that he began to think about the 20,000 Black people he was fighting for in the US, people consigned to the lowest rank for centuries, smothered by poverty, quarantined in isolated ghettoes, and exiled in their own country. He then said, “Yes, I am an untouchable, and every negro in the United States of America is an untouchable.” In that moment, he realised that the land of the free had imposed a caste system not unlike the caste system of India, and that he had lived under that system all of his life. And the irony is that still happening today. Now on view @pavaagallery

AfroDalit, 2021, Gracie Berry ©

Ojise the Griots Griot

Meet Ojise the Griots Griot, the 3rd mask I made in the Antebellum Tribal Afrikanface Mask Collection, whose name means messenger in Yoruba. The stories in his fabric is one of mystery and magical and holds secrets and tons of messages to be unearthed from past, present and future antebellum Afrikan descendants. Check out photos below of my process. Now on view @pavaagallery.

Ojise the Griots Griot, 2021, Gracie Berry ©

Black Washed Book Onsale March 4th!

The moves I make in this life are as intentional as the day I was born. Glow of a young gifted and Black, spirit shining bigger than my body. What a beautiful birthday gift entering my birthday month. ♥️

Repost from @veryblackbooks @dennismaurice 

#BlackWashedBook is on sale March 5, 2021 @ veryBlackbooks.com. You want to read this collection of essays, poems, dreams, and letters addressed to Black folk, especially the confidently curated forewords like this one from @girlrillavintage.