This summer, when I visited my grandmother in Gary, Indiana, I asked if she had anything left from the sharecropping plantation she was born on in Minter City, Mississippi. She told me that the only things left were an old quilt that belonged to her mother and a small woven basket that her grandmother used to carry, both of which she left in the South. My grandmother is the oldest of two surviving members of the Williams Plantation, bought in 1892 by her grandparents, Muh and Papa (Molly and Bill Williams). This land was taken from them in 1939 by white authorities. My grandmother’s story is part of a larger history of Black agricultural land theft in the Mississippi Delta, where over 12 million acres have been lost in the last century. My textiles are meditations around Black indigeneity and our historical, physical, and spiritual relationships to land. Informed by my grandmother’s memories of the land and lack thereof, they have manifested themselves as flowers and butterflies, knots and roots; watered by stories my grandmother tells me; and nurtured by photographs of our ancestors who hold ancient wisdom in their eyes. I have painted Mississippi plantation fields that somehow morph into self-portraits embodied as wild flowers, existing in an afterlife of fragrant scars. The land is the grandmother of grandmothers - the griot of griots - and it is for this reason why I must go and hear her stories, learn the tools, write through thread, and archive through fabric.
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