Statement of Intent
The work that I am currently researching and making, is concerned with rectifying the site of the Black female body. I have started this process by dissecting the origins of this site and the historic precedences on it. The Black female body was historically objectified and place into the subsequent categories as the Jezebel, Mammy, and Sapphire. These historic categories do not allow the Black woman to be whole within their limitations and definitions. The mammy; the desexualized caregiver, The Jezebel; the sexual insatiable and desirable, and the Sapphire; also known as the angry Black woman who is aggressive, dominant, masculine and emasculates men. No woman can withstand the confines of these archetypes, no woman can be any of these all the time. No woman is just one stationary performance of femininity. These archetypes are myths that precede themselves. They were used to disenfranchise the being and justify the treatment of the Black female body.
The Black woman can never be whole under these narratives, but the contemporary Black woman was forged under them. These historical precedences of the way the black female body has been seen impacts not only the way it is viewed today, but has had a psychological toll on the Black woman as a whole. These historic archetypes are still present and impact the way the Black woman sees herself, the way the world sees her, and how she moves through space. This impact on the way contemporary Black female body is seen and the way the body reacts and adapts under this gaze and this has lead to the Black female body in crisis.
I have started to look at the way the performance of my own actions fit into these categories. How do I perform these archetypes? Because these categories are so ridged and do not allow for the migration between them to be a full ranged being, they fragment the self. Parts of all these archetypes are in me but I am in no way them. I can’t be. No one can be. And it is in that way I perform and I fail to perform.
The Black woman's body is a site where the historic and contemporary geographies of racism and sexism converge. In a body under this convergence of racism/sexism and the systematic machine that is, I am faced with trying to answer the question of how do I live free in this Black female body? I have started to unpack this by looking at the action that are used to render the black female body more “palatable” to the dominant culture; hair straightening and skin bleaching. Hair is a offen a very public contested site of the Black female body. The weight and personal struggle with hair and its natural kink is often linked to a larger issue of self worth in the world. The depth of skin tone is also linked to the was they Black Female body is looked at and fetishized. Colorism, discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group, and the strives for lighter skin with chemical processes of bleaching also signal a psychological break between the body and the self. Both of these method are used to make the Black female body more “palatable”.
Sugar itself has a history that is inspirable from the slave trade. As the european leisure class developed a taste for sugar the demand for it went up, as did the need for more crops and more labor. Much in the way we use sugar to hide or sweeten the taste of food, these methods are used sweeten the Black female body to cultural “taste” and made more “palatable”. I am mapping and linking the lineages of the sugar trade and the way we consume sugar to the way we consume the Black female body.
I am looking at the way Black women negotiate between the self and the world. Between the crisis and the authentic. Through acts of self exhibition I am interrupting the view on the body and making the viewer question the prescribed performances of femininity to the black body in divulging their limited imposed meanings. They reveal the persistent futility of Black female body reacting within the culturally allowed space and the subtle absurdity of it all.