Listening to Material Witness

Listening to Material Witness

Those who have eyes let them see. Those who have ears let them hear. Let them see remnants of the past. Let them hear the whispers of the ancestors working through alienation. Tina Campts listening to images has me thinking about what my works are saying inaudibly. Susan influenced me to capture a compilation of architectural design through photographic imagery. 

As of recent, I have felt a strong need and desire to capture adinkra symbols I experience on my daily errands and escapades. Adinkras serves as visual symbols that were originally created by the Ashanti tribe of Ghana and the Gyaman of Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa. These symbols are metaphorical sayings to convey traditional wisdom, views of the natural world and social aspects of life. These symbols have heightened my awareness of cultural relevance and purpose as it relates to current practice. The provided compiled images serve as a guide and reference point of material witness from the African ancestors who built these structures. In part of creation we see select adinkras embedded into modern architecture, such as gates enclosing a plantation.These traditional structures continue to reflect the turmoils and triumphs of the diaspora over many decades to current time.  

I have challenged myself to visualize my works in ways they could produce sound inaudibly. What would they say if one could hear them? Would the material speak for itself? The underlining frustrations experienced in attempts to connecting unspoken history  to present generations is indescribable. The evidence of the past and their existence surrounds me. It consumes and swallows me. The decorative iron gates that provide security for plantations scream to me pleading. Record me, catalog me. I am here. My urges to capture moments in time that pre-exist my timeline has developed a sense of liberation and answers to questions I have long forgotten. 

As I have been cataloging there are two prepositions that have directed my work. Are the images creating a dialogue? Does the material speak for itself where sound doesn’t influence? In this project I have made an astounding discovery of vintage floral papers and dead-stock Pantone sheets while sorting through outdated materials in my studio. I thought to myself how these papers hold so much history and character as some are torn and mishandled opposed to others that remain in mint condition. I observe the papers and how they hold traditional patterns and design. 

My thoughts travel Susan Schuppli’s material witness and how the television screen held the imprint of the prisons environment even when removed from its power source. The environment became apart of the material screen indefinitely. I like to think of it as the effects of moments in time claiming it’s permanency, it’s birth right. How can I show timelines entangling together to create a dialogue of complexities yet holding historical integrity? I decided to collage these papers into figurative images from a moment in time where Nelson Mandela was released from prison taking on one if his first travels in America to New York City in 1990. This image depicts Mandela walking with his legal team and law enforcement. His resilience is heard through the image as he looks toward the distance of his future, Mandela Served 27 years in prison due to his strong hand in ending apartheid. I wanted to show the connections of imagery and material through his acts of resilience.

In the painting I have embedded the Adinkra symbol “Wawa Aba” to represent toughness, perseverance and resilience throughout the hidden layers of the work. The message is that the various experiences of the diaspora is commonly hidden and unspoken in efforts to be forgotten or erased. This work symbolizes hearing the unspeakable as it presents itself in its environment. In image two, I decided to take an architectural relic containing an adinkra symbol and place it in a plantation site to seal the connections of symbolism as it presents itself within its atmosphere. In the third attachment I created paralleled recording with curated sound from the movie Sankofa. The sound contains a poem from the movie intro that contains rhythmic drums and ancient chants. The movie depicts the meaning of the adinkra sankofa telling its viewers to be reminded of the past and go back for it in order to progressively move forward.




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