BLACK SOULS ART INSTALLATION
1619 was the date the first Africans slaves reached the shores of Virginia. The arrival of these African men and women marked the beginning of 400 years of darkness in the dark history of humanity in the new country of America.
For many people of African descent, the stigma of heredity is deeply imbedded in their DNA in a variety of ways; social justice, Jim Crow laws, lack of access to education, redlining, and many other actions designed to deprive those of African descent of their rights as human beings under the Constitution of the United States of America.
What do we really know about the first Africans brought to the shores of the United States? Where in Africa were they originally from? What were their names? Their values, or the values of their families and communities?
The African masks are used to represent the spirits of the ancestors. We know that in the African culture, some masks represent the spirits of deceased ancestors.
This installation is an attempt to celebrate and honor the enslaved, men and women.
Masks have a central place in African culture. I wanted to create a memorial that gives their lost souls the appropriate place they deserve, beyond a mask.
The spirits of the enslaved lined up, one after another, bounded by the systematic organization and repetition, mimicking the way they were lined up in lower part of the boats in which they were carried from Africa to America, a land where no freedom awaited them.
The 40-plus masks symbolically take the position of the American stars on the US flag, signifying the importance they represent in building the United States of America. A nation built on the backs of African slaves.
Each mask is represented by a recycled gas can.
Depending on the way the bottle is oriented, the gas can takes a shape of an African mask.
The idea of using a recycled material partially comes with the many trips to the Ivory Coast I experienced as a child with my family.
The craftsmanship with recycled materials was breathtaking. Kids in the street were creating everything out of nothing. As a result, I have learned to use the same technique to design this installation as a tribute to my brothers and sisters, living on the mother land that inspired me.
I have organized the design based on the American flag.
The piling up and design is to remind visitors how the victims were placed in the boats they were carried in on their trip to America.
The use of wood is to remind us of the structure in which the enslaved were held captive during the long sea journey.
The difference of shapes and forms in between the mask is to remind the diversity of nationality, ethnicity of these men and women.
cebrating black history month
''The purpose of “Black Souls” is to highlight and commemorate the first enslaved Africans to arrive on American soil in 1619.''