About

Homebound

Currently on view through October at CSPS Hall in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Homebound
/ˈhōmˌbound/

 

The duality of what it means to be homebound -- to be either unable to leave one's house or moving towards one's home -- is explored in the context of the pandemic months. For in those months, though we were restricted to our houses, I believe it was a universal "calling home" of the spirit and self. In this series, my work comes home to the business of motherhood.

 

Within my own home, like many across America (in which our basic human needs are met and in which we are relatively safe), I found my role as parent/mother had changed abruptly in many ways. I worked to anchor my mind and heart in teaching and learning from my daughters in real time and in raw and seamless conversations from day to day which took the shape of several prominent themes: racial equality, academic studies, freedom of mobility and refuge, separation from and union with those we love, ethical responsibility to others, death, and the role of art and creativity in one's life and in the world. You'll find, to some degree, each of those themes represented here.

The Role of Family:

The catalyst of all this was one question: what am I teaching my children?

And then ... What can I teach them during this once-in-a-lifetime time during which we are homebound -- physically and geographically restricted -- and yet given opportunity to make significant movement toward a more spiritual sense of home that transcends place and property? What am I learning about myself; what are we learning about each other; and what is my responsibility as mother, daughter, Black American, and artist?

 

My “household” during the pandemic months included my 15- and 13-year-old daughters as well as my mother who lives in her own home down the street but with whom we operated as a family unit. But there is an intuitive sense of a sort of pilgrimage towards home that inspired the process of this work. I believe that the global and national events of these months, the seismic environmental events, the molecular changes within, the spiritual shifts that are occurring are an invitation to explore a metaphysical sense of home, perhaps a sense of place and authentic being that was buried under a too-fast and too-full life.

 

Many of us have been (in some cases) forced or (in other cases) invited to migrate physically, emotionally, or spiritually in these months. The pull has been a sort of magnetism. And perhaps it was only the restriction of movement that would allow for this migration to spiritual home. What a time! To be bound and to bound, leap, move forward to something new. 

 

Art has always been a spiritual endeavor for me and a communion with others through words and work. This series is an examination of my own creativity, the writing of other female authors that I drew inspiration from through these months, and a complicated journey as mother toward my own creative and spiritual home.

About the Materials and Form:

As with the Revelations series, most of these works are designed to be reminiscent of the size of an average book of nonfiction (5x8) and may be considered narratives in visual form. In the various beads are family units working to be reunited or to stay together. The choice of textiles range from those I associate with my grandmother's home, my mother's home, and now my home. Some are symbolic of the foundations upon which a mother's dreams for her children are born. I've also incorporated two African wax prints:

1) The design on the turquoise + orange material goes by many names, one of which is "Nsu Bura" which means 'water well' in Ghana. The message suggests that, just as when a stone is thrown into the water causing a ripple effect, our actions -- good or bad -- impact all those around us (and who come after us).

2) The design on the deep pink + yellow material symbolizes "Afe Bi Ye Asiane" which, in Ghana, translates to each year has its ups and downs. It's also a pattern which represents advice, specifically that which is given to daughters by their mothers.


Certain elements are intended to move in the present and shift over time, rather than remain static. Some of these subtle kinetic elements which incorporate tension, suspension and movement are designed to honor the state of constant movement, change, and growth inherent in the human experience. Implications of fragility and impermanence are entangled with elements of strength; kinetic energy is balanced with stillness; bondage and freedom, restraint and empowerment, unity and separation all exist here.

Because I get geeked out on literal definitions, connotative meanings, and etymologies, consider what Webster says about "home" and "bound":
HOME

dwelling place

a place where one feels at ease

the place in which one’s domestic affections are centered;

the abiding place of the affections

the place of origin; the beginning

the place where a person was raised; childhood home

to a full and intimate degree; the heart of a matter

a place of refuge, rest, or care

(by extension) the grave; the final rest; the native and eternal dwelling place of the soul

v-         to be guided to a destination by a signal

            to seek or aim for something; to target

            to return to the place where a thing belongs

BOUND

to leap, spring upward, jump

to confine, restrain

under legal or moral obligation

figurative sense of “compelled”

to be confined within limits

secured within a cover, as a book

fastened; made fast by tying, by a band, by a bond

destined, sure, certain (as in “bound to happen”)

(13c) to echo back; associated with the deep, hollow sound of a bomb

(Old Danish) to dwell, be, exist, grow

(archaic) to be prepared or ready           

Akwi Nji © 2020

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