Why Slavery?

Today I wanted to discuss why I chose to make my thesis exhibition on slavery. But before I get there, it’s important for me to discuss why I’m in the program that I’m in.

Currently I’m double majoring in English and Studio Art and minoring in African & African American Studies. Originally when I first started college, I thought I would major and minor  in African & African American Studies, Sociology, and Media Studies. And boy, was I wrong! By the end of my first semester of college, I knew I had to be an English major. And sometime during my second year of college, I knew I had to be an Art major. I was previously opposed to studying both of these things. I dismissed English because I thought it was only about grammar and Shakespeare and I dismissed Studio Art too because I’m horrendous at drawing, and that was all art meant to me at the time. Through my classes, I realized that art was much more than just drawing and that it held immense power in this world..

During my third year of college, I decided to apply for the Distinguished Majors Project (DMP) in Studio Art. I made this decision because I knew that I wanted to pursue art at a professional level, and I thought that the DMP would give me the much needed preparation, patience, and technique in order to do so, as well as giving me the opportunity to learn about my practice. The DMP program is an independent year long project that culminates in a written thesis as well as an exhibition. The students in the program meet for weekly seminars as they work on developing the project on a subject of their choice..

Which brings me to slavery. Why slavery? Originally, my thesis was about a completely different subject. It was on the meaning of citizenship, home, and second generation Nigerian immigrants. I turned to slavery when I realized that my true interests laid there. So again, why slavery? What is the point of focusing on slavery when there are “more pressing” issues we are facing right now in 2017? I don’t have an eloquent answer to that question, but what I know and believe is that it still has something to say to us. Those people, their voices, their bodies, that were erased from history, placed in unmarked graves with new buildings constructed on top of them, drowned in the Atlantic Ocean, mutilated, sold, forgotten, abandoned, they still have something to say to us. Something to teach us. Stories to tell us. Warnings to give us. I’m hoping that my art can be a conduit for them. May their voices be heard always.


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