I couldn’t help but to feel a little bothered by the fact that the only food provided and chosen to give a representation of the African American culture at the Folk Life Festival was chicken and waffles.
When you think about how many African/African American communities there are in the United States alone, what comes to mind? I think of crawfish and gumbo from New Orleans, soul food from the south (which usually consists of greens, “chitlins”, hot water corn bread, etc.) and its relation to the life of slaves. I also think of those Haitian and Jamaican communities who also have a vast range of food delicacies. The food that has become apart of the African American household has a history, has an origin, and has a reason that it is still being cooked and prepared by our families today. So, I ask why the Festival would resort to choosing something as stereotypical as chicken, waffles, and watermelon as the food selections for the African American heritage?
The belief that black people only favor certain foods simplifies our culture and reduces us to a deficient culture that lacks differentiation. Honestly, every time I walked by that large sign that read “CHICKEN & WAFFLES” an image of an African American in disintegrating clothing, barefoot with unkempt hair and a speech impediment came to mind. I would also imagine him hungrily holding a chicken leg in one hand and using the other to slop down a watermelon slice.
I mean, why not add kool aid packages and food stamps as souvenirs…
As I mentioned in a previous post, what is apparent about the Hungarian culture, as well as the majority of the other cultures showcased at the festival, is the fact that the people really enjoyed the process of making.
The woman shown above is making a blanket using a weaving loom- a machine that not only dates back since the dawn of time, but also utilizes all parts of the body. Her feet enable the machine to work, putting the process in motion. Using a shuttle, she uses one hand to feed the thread through, while the other maneuvers a wooden block that fuses that thread into the rest of the pattern. She is focused and accurate, but then again you have to be to use this intimating contraption!
Being that we live in a digital and technology-driven world composed of 3d printing and other computer aided tools that speed up production, it is certainly refreshing to see a retrieval of more traditional practices that force the designer/user to become more diligent and also appreciative of craft. It is also important to recognize that through the practice of making blankets and patters, the culture is once again revived through the process. It reminds us of how the ancestors of the Hungarian culture went about producing quality, hand crafted goods for their community or for trade.
Looks like he’s excited about the tamale making demonstration at the Isthmus Zapotec, Mexico exhibit
During my exploration of the Will to Adorn exhibition at the Folklife Festival, I was struck by the subject matter and vividness of these illustrations. Because they were so awesome, I had to stop to take pictures for the AACC blog, unknowing of the artist who produced them at the time.
Soon after taking the pictures, a man stopped me and kindly asked that I would send the pictures that I captured to him. I was confused and skeptical, but I collected his information and proceeded to inspect the rest of the exhibition The next day, after publishing an open discussion post regarding these illustrations, I sent all the images of the illustrations I collected that day to the man. I then grew curious, and decided to google this mystery man.
Shocked and embarrassed, I found that the mystery man is none other than the artist who produced them! His name is Emory Douglas and from my understanding his work opens conversations about social and political issues as well as issues surrounding African Americans.
Mr. Douglass’ bio, as well as prints and other items that are available for purchase, can be found on his website : http://www.emorydouglasart.com/
Check him out!
Your work speaks volumes and is truly amazing. I apologize for my bewilderment and ignorance during our first encounter!
The artist is Emory Douglass! These pictures were taken at the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival at the Will to Adorn exhibition.
Aesthetically, these illustrations jump of the page because of its bold color palettes and various mediums; However, these images clearly have a larger theme beyond its aesthetics and representation of the African American identity.
What do these images mean to you?
Do you think these images only speak strictly to African Americans?
What say you?
Preparation for jewelry and beading