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Revelations

Revelation

/ˌrevəˈlāSH(ə)n/

 

A spring and summer marked by global pandemic and a sudden awakening to racial injustice inspired Revelations -- a series which explores both at once. From Late Latin, Middle English, Old French, and its relationship in Greek to apocalypse, "revelation" involves laying bare truth or revealing, an uncovering or unveiling in order to cause or allow something to be seen, a disclosure of knowledge, to un-"veil". This is about revelations of the historical and racial, individually and nationally, in a season of a masked existence. Here, the veil and unveiling is represented in tulle and this traditionally feminine symbol of protection, suppression, or separation works synonymously with the literal mask as protection and the symbolic masks Black Americans have traditionally donned as Dunbar claimed in "We Wear the Mask".

Revelations is also a reflection of what it means to be Black mother, wife, daughter in the context of a culture which most focuses on the Black masculine as simultaneously victim and able to overcome. We are the mothers, the sisters, the grandmothers, the women who fear and fight and who hold homes together -- often singlehandedly -- yet whose narratives and voices are too often diminutive in Movement. So, here, in works designed to mimic the size of an average book of nonfiction (5x8), their narratives are given voice and light and we are reminded that there is strength in softness, too. It's an unassuming strength and simple, unassuming beauty.

While there are, incorporated into the series, symbols of restriction of movement, the work is about the power to rise up, rise above, and uprise despite restrictions on freedoms, voice, or movement -- historically and in the present.

 

In the sculpted wood beads are family units working to be reunited or to stay together. The choice of textiles range from those which would have traditionally been worn by slaves (tweed, linen, and coarse cotton) to pillowcases -- the foundations upon which a mother's dreams for her children are born. Knots hold elements together in various degrees of strength and weakness. Elements of the earth are echoed in color and placement and exist wholly as guide, foundation, gateways to triumph.

 

In Revelations are also certain elements intended to move in the present and shift over time, rather than remain static. Some of these subtle kinetic elements which (depending on how some pieces are hung) imply suspension and movement -- are designed to at once echo conditions of our history and present a reminder that we are in a constant state of movement and change which can and should lead to growth. Implications of fragility and impermanence are entangled with elements of strength; kinetic energy is balanced with stillness; bondage and freedom, restraint and empowerment, trauma and triumph, unity and separation lay bare here in a bed of beautiful fury unveiled in the masked spring of 2020.

Akwi Nji © 2020

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