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.
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.
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!
I was commissioned by Music for Everyone to create original artwork that will be paired inside the sleeve of a record that will feature a speech by Frederick Douglass titled, The Hypocrisy of American Slavery, for their Songs for Justice project.
Thoughts on the speech: I interpret Frederick Douglass’ speech, The Hypocrisy of American Slavery, as a battle roar that ironically mirrors too many experiences faced on a global level by Black communities today. However, the biggest lie taught in our worlds history that must be unlearned is the delusion of white superiority and being afraid of the dark. These times may be many things, but certainly not dark.
About the piece: I named the piece, Ancestor Tones because I want to pay homage to melanin. All shades of Black skin are vibrant, biological reflections of nature and the universe. In fact, the very cosmology of enslaved Afrikan people and their descendants is a form of universal wealth. It’s an unspoken truth and inherent birth right, no matter how one was born into it. Ancestor Tones explores themes of Afro-futurism connecting past, present and future. I think of Frederick Douglass as an Afro-futurist because he paved the way as a community educator and revolutionary for the Black people of his time. Not to mention he was the most photographed human-being of the era. He embodied what reimagining a Black future looked like by the way he controlled the narrative of his Afro-diasporic experience of the day. And continues to inspire generations in modern times. Take Amanda Gorman for instance, the youngest Black inaugural poet in American history. She credits Frederick Douglass with teaching her how to use technology for social justice. She reminds us of how intentional he was about capturing a counter-image to the Black American stereotypes at the time and how important that message is in her own work. You’ll notice hints of red and gold, a symbol for Amanda Gorman on Inauguration Day. The glow of her young, gifted and Black spirit, shining so much bigger than her body. Center to deep, Black, shadowy cowrie shells, wool and cotton, symbols of the million and one ancestral spirits surrounding her, journeying with her as she reclaims her humanity.
I wrote this after George Floyd was taken from here. All his motherly ancestors channeled me to write. All the mothers conjured up through. Cause even in death he called on his mother. The power in wailing her name was battle cry that had to be answered by every motherly energy that ever was. Thank God for his breath, his last words stained into the fabric of the universe. He didn’t give those cowards the power they were seeking. And that’s why I always say we don’t have to acquiesce, even in death. Watermelon is a poem to my people for my people. Break dem gotdamn curses. And stay in the struggle.
There is nothing in vain about 2020. We’ve become so fragile that we forget the strength and purpose we were born with. We descended and “made it”. Makin’ it. We forget our telepathic relationship with Mother Earth, like how we know damn well this pandemic ain’t over just ‘cause we’re over it.
Remembering Chadwick Boseman fondly although we’d never met. How he lived his remarkable life, so FULL & PLENTY. This year is nothing short of a miracle. This year is forcing our divine power into action. It’s a returning. A redemption. A laying down of our bare bones, those of us on this side of spirit and those ancestors alike. It’s an honor to exist. We’re not in vain.
There is purpose in the disEASE of the present moment. My friend @tyshanalakre taught me that.
And I don’t know everything. That is all.
Being Black is not exhausting. Racism is. Don’t ever tell your beautiful Black self that you are exhausting.
Yes, we get tired and are exhausted and must be diligent about taking our rest, setting healthy boundaries.
But our experience is nothing less than a miracle AND we manage to energize everything we touch no matter what. Nobody asks the sun to shine, it just does. That’s us. WE the sun. Shine! ♥️♥️♥️
#afrikanface #afrikanbornin #blacklife #blackisafrican #getyourrest #girlrillavintage #iloveyall #ourblacklivesmatter #racismisexhausting #racismisavirus #stayinthestruggle #theeamazinggrace #wecomefromsomeplace
Been having heavy conversations with friends lately about what justifiable reparations looks like for us surviving descendants of enslaved Afrikan Americans.
To me it looks like black people being tax exempt for at least 400 years. Also, the government fully funding the purchase of a home or land to build whatever we want on it. That way we have an opportunity to build our own economic wealth in this country. That resonates for me.
What does #reparations look like to you? ✊🏾✊🏿✊🏾