Images by Irene Antonia Diane Reece
Emblematic of Black Souls
I am giving you permission into my world but only for a moment.
I write this always to set boundaries for my viewers that are not a part of my community. My works’ purpose will forever be for the communities I represent – my work will never be a history lesson or teaching about Black life or Black culture. My work is and will always be centering Black folx and celebrating Blackness. Within this work, I use the Black church as a catalyst to provoke change and talk about the social injustices towards Black lives. The work is an embodiment of my self-expression of the positionality that Black folx are in throughout society. Black lives are not protected. Black lives are not fought for; they are not loved, embraced, and celebrated enough. Black life is culture, history, love, resilience, and life itself. ‘Emblematic of Black Souls’ was cultivated and is a sub-genre of my larger body of work called ‘Home-goings’. While each series is its own entity, all of my works intersect one another in some capacity. Each is built on the format of my identities which includes my childhood upbringing, Southern culture, Black culture, and unlearning/learning frameworks that have impacted my daily life. In order to understand ‘Emblematic of Black Souls’ you need to connect with the wider word depicted in the series ‘Home-goings’.
‘Home-goings’ is an ongoing project and an extensive practice about protecting Black lives through experimentation with family archives, church objects – while using the symbolism of Black Southern churches. The complexities behind protecting Black lives are multilayered through metaphors and messages that are meant to convey that Black lives are sacred, even though we are not treated as such. ‘Emblematic of Black Souls’ connection to ‘Home-goings’ is through the usage of the church fans as more than an object. They are repurposed to further push the idea of using church objects and African American spirituality as a form of activism and celebration of Black lives. Growing up in the South, during church I was heavily influenced by the Black imagery I consumed as a child. And while I did consume a lot of imagery in mainstream media, this was an imagery that controlled and contrived narratives of Black life through a white gaze.
‘Loving blackness as political resistance transforms our ways of looking and being and thus creates the conditions necessary for us to move against the forces of domination and death and reclaim Black life.’ ― bell hooks
I found that the majority of the churches I would experience with family always had positive imagery of Black life, Black families, and Black leaders. I, being an image-based and image- making artist, revisited that memory and the importance of the circulation and symbolism of what these fans held during my childhood.
I want this space that I created to be a form of self-expression for all the different emotions we go through. Black lives are celebrated in this space, we will forever fight for them and they are forever loved here. I dedicated this time to celebrate, cry, grieve, hum, sing, and be expressive entirely. I made this space for my kin folx. I want to always reiterate that. I want to give and receive through this work. This isn’t church service but the presence of it is there; the identity that I can relate to and love.
This work isn’t about Black representation, it is about demanding equitable change. My kin don’t need equality, we need equity. My kin don’t need charity, we need solidarity. My kin don’t need a seat at the table. We need and (already are) building our own table; because the table that was given to us was never meant for us. My kin need to not shrink themselves, my kin needs to continue to be forever unapologetic and shine.
KINFOLX = BLACK FOLX