Black Quilting InspirationRead Now
by Anthony R. Green
It is Sunday, and it is time for a BIBA Blog! A bit of an uncharacteristic post today, this entry is mostly aimed at composers (although the content is definitely for everyone, naturally!). Why composers? Well, well, well … you (composer who is reading this) may have seen that Castle of our Skins is accepting proposals for new works based on quilting in the African diasporic traditions. This encompasses quilting traditions from Black people all over the world. Submissions will be accepted from anyone who considers themselves to be a composer, and we welcome all stylistic approaches to composition! For the first time in COOS composer call history, this call is completely free to enter! Have you already submitted a proposal? THANK YOU SO MUCH, we are looking forward to reviewing your work! Are you interested in submitting a proposal but need some inspiration? Keep on reading, as there is some incredible information and links below!
For those in the Los Angeles area, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) now has a show that includes some quilts from the quilters of Gee’s Bend (mentioned in the Call for Proposals). The exhibit, entitled Outliers and American Vanguard Art pairs these quilts with works by other fabric and textile artists, as well as other self-taught artists from the United States. Read the press release about the show here: http://www.lacma.org/sites/default/files/Outliers-press%20release-11.8.18_0.pdf
The website www.whyquiltsmatter.org will be an invaluable resource into understanding the general quilting world. While it has not updated its blog since 2015, its archive is still available to peruse and gain inspiration. Composers interested in the current call may want to start at this particular post: http://www.whyquiltsmatter.org/welcome/news/american-folk-art-museum-and-boca-raton-museum-of-art-join-forces-for-timely-quilt-exhibit/ , which has some very relevant information and imagery. I particular love the “Freedom Quilt” by Jessie B. Telfair.
This article from the New York Times from 2004 is packed with stories about quilters and their art from the United States. ( https://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/13/arts/design-review-patchwork-portraits-american-life-that-tell-much-they-show.html ) The article is from a quilt exhibit at the American Folk Art Museum, and mentions the story of “Freedom Quilt” ( http://selftaughtgenius.org/artworks/freedom-quilt-jessie-b-telfair ), along with other celebrated quilts and quilters.
Underground Railroad mythology includes a theory that quilts were used to communicate information about how to escape to the north. While some historians dispute this claim, the idea can definitely be used for musical inspiration. You can read more about this theory in the Wikipedia article about the subject: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quilts_of_the_Underground_Railroad
While textile practices such as sewing, knitting, and quilting, are stereotypically feminine activities (despite the proliferation of superstar male fashion designers), here is an eye-opening article about Black male quilters, published in the Washington Post 20 years ago in 1998! https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1998/02/24/stitches-in-time-black-mens-quilts/2753d2ad-225b-4398-a7ce-ba14534dad36/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.351a358e2d8b
In other parts of the world, there are wonderful quilters of African heritage. For example, in India, the Siddi (African-Indian) people have a rich tradition that can be viewed here: https://www.africanquiltsofindia.com/ . You can read a bit about West African quilting traditions here: http://iraaa.museum.hamptonu.edu/page/Quilting-Links-U%3ES%3E-and-Africa . And there is some information about quilts and her incredible story from the Kenyan textile artist Amani Ya Juu here: https://amaniafrica.org/ (be sure to read her “about” and go to shop->quilts to see her colorful, creative work).
While not a traditional quilter, the work of the incredible Ghanaian artist El Anatsui reminds of quilt. BIBA has a blog about him and other visual artists from Africa here: http://www.castleskins.org/biba/contemporary-african-art . Any other Black contemporary artists whose work reminds of quilting can be included in this proposal, so long as you make a connection to the work of the artist and the tradition of quilting (which can be done easily for the work of El Anatsui).
There is no shortage of information on African American quilting traditions, and a quick internet search will yield numerous links (such as these: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 ). Have fun exploring, because the information is incredible and rich! COOS cannot wait to curate this concert with new works from you all! Be creative in your proposals! You can include multiple artists and quilts, or just focus on one and the story or philosophy behind the quilt. You can focus on one quilt, and use the elements of that quilt to form the structure of the composition. You can focus on the story of a quilter or a group of quilters, and paint a musical journey of that story. The sky is the limit with this call, and we look forward to reading your submissions!
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