Friday, May 16, 2008

Black Womanhood at the Hood Museum

Guest post by Kathy J. :
Black Womanhood at the Hood Museum until August 10, 2008 is amazing.

Amongst all its riches I found myself choosing to return to view "Dressed Like Queens", a video and sound installation by Igrid Mwamgi.

The installation is composed of three video screens behind a trinity of cascading translucent curtains: one red, one bronze and one green.

I stood and watched for quite awhile, the piece runs just over twenty minutes, noticing how hard it is for me to really slow down and look and listen. The words became a poem and the video images became a dance. There is so much here that can't be conveyed except by the experience itself. See it if you can.

A few words from the narration that I jotted down: "You don't know." "No shoes." "Rage." "Insecure future", and most affecting for me given that the show details the oppression of black women, "Give them their clothes."

The screens show images of black women with upper torso unclothed. Are all three the same woman? The draperies over the screens provide a sort of covering. The figures are softened and contoured by the folds of the cloth. The woman on the right commands, "Give them their clothes. "The figure on the left contorts her face into frightening shapes and ululates, is it a warrior's countenance? The figure in the center is pregnant and says nothing. She stands, walks away,
approaches, sits, massages her abdomen.

All three use their hands throughout the piece. Their hands sprinkle, pinch, soothe, flow gracefully a language of gesture. After awhile the hands seemed to be speaking as eloquently as the narration reminding me of sign language.

"They should be dressed like queens." is a commanding presence in this remarkable exhibit. My time spent was richly rewarded.

Kathy J

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