Photo Credit: Alex Barber

UBUNTU; I AM BECAUSE WE ARE

Ubuntu: I am because we are, an installation that explores the vital and significant role of women, especially the lives of immigrant women, whose daily labor and work, necessary to their families and livelihood, often goes unnoticed. In this sense, Ubuntu is a group portrait, celebrating the familial and societal impact of their lives and work. 

The installation consists of African wax, Kente, Batik and Tie and dye fabrics scraps collected from seamstresses across Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, and New York. The collected scraps symbolically represent the diverse group of women. For his installation, the fabrics are trimmed according to a template by participants from Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, and USA during workshops, open studios and story circlesin 2013-2018, and pasted on yards of stiff fabric and Tyvek with a white glue.

The swaths of thick fabric create a sort of wall that can suspend in and cover an area, transforming space and surrounding the viewer. The sense of total immersion created by the fabric, mirroring traditional brick arrangements, highlights the aesthetic beauty of fabrics and symbolically emphasizes African heritage and shared immigration histories. The dynamic installation also highlights the traditional arts found in Sirigu, Ghana – a village known for murals created primarily by women and a lively arts community. 

Another component of the installation are portraits of women created using an airbrush application technique with black acrylic paint. In 2013, the I solicited a call for portraits of women on social media – this collection of images comes from this call and depicts real women from a diverse range of experiences and lives. I rearrange the ears, nose, and mouth in the portraits so that a new image is created. There is a universal undertone to the installation through the collected fabrics and portraits that highlights the commonalities of all people and our shared experiences.