Sunday, April 5, 2009

Art and Remembering Slavery

Providence and this conference offer visitors many opportunities to reflect on slavery. A project by Roger Williams University Brown Professor Julian Bonder and his partner Kristof Wodiczko will remember the French city Nantes as the major slave-trading port with a giant-earthworks cut: the physical wound of slavery, filled with the waters of the Middle Passage. Bonder's design students presented an array of thoughtful public space macquettes, including African face masks with hidden mirrors that offer a reflection of the user's complicity.

A poster stand by the New-York Historical Society detailing "Run for Your Life Underground Railroad projects, demonstrated the kind of national networking that invites the public to learn more about fugitive slaves and the impact of the early African American public sphere. Given the NCPH's conference themes this year, the community of contacts was especially important on this topic.

This landscape of human rights was amplified with the screening of the film Scarred Justice, the Orangeburg Massacre -- a moving documentary about the tragic shooting and wounding of students at South Carolina State in 1968. Filmmaker Judy Richardson noted how documents from Freedom of Information Act requests could provide evidence for the never-conducted investigation that today's citizens demand.

While leafing a local magazine, I discovered that Providence runs an "I Buy Art" project to encourage businesses to sell original artwork, and engage the public in the vibrant art-making activity in the city. If it weren't Sunday am at Plenary Time, I would run out and shop for an original right now!

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