It Is History
Deanna Tyson from London, England
This quilt was inspired, partly by an exhibition I saw on Art and Empire in which statues of imperialists and beneficiaries of slavery were “repossessed” by being decked in African wax cloths, adornments and jewelry, and partly by the debate over the toppling of statues. It is a great affront to many people that there are still statues worldwide that honor slave owners, slave traders and those who commit crimes against humanity.
In this work, Frederick Douglass and President Obama are at the Lincoln Memorial, pulling on the ropes that topple the ghosts of racism. Statues of Leopoldo II of Belgium, who committed horrendous crimes against humanity in the Congo, Jefferson Davis, slave owner and fervent racist, and Edward Colston, ruthless slave trader, surround them - blindfolded by wax cloths and bound by ropes.
All three central characters are dressed in vibrant African wax cloths while the memorial itself is worked in fine Dupioni silks. The silk is luxurious but subdued against the riotous vitality of the wax cloth. Worked in silk organza, the statues themselves appear ghostly and transparent – almost irrelevant – as if fading from history.
The stitched quotation is by a black British historian, David Olusoga, and it is from this quotation that my title is derived.
47" x 43"
Silk, Tussah wild silk, silk organza, African wax cloth, pen and ink; appliqué, machine embroidered.