About GirlrillaVintage the Blog

Peace! I’m Gracie Berry, a Black-Afrikan, queer, cis-woman, community root-healer/educator, multi-dimensional creative, and womanist. As a griot, its important to the integrity of my work that I share my life’s experiences and messages in a ways that honors my ancestors and comes from an Afro-diasporic centered view point before any of the margins. Showcasing my art, activism, autochthonous Afrikan-spirit, my story, vintage, words. Community roothealer. Here to love and liberate my people. Learn more about me by visiting my website at www.girlrillavintage.com.

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

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

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 ©

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/

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.