The Long Shadow of Slavery- Adya Zecha

“When stereotypes attempt to take control of their own bodies, they can only do what they are made of and they are made of the pathological attitudes of the South. Therefore, racist stereotypes in my art can only partake of psychotic activities.”- Kara Walker

What interested me most about Heartney’s reading was the concept of the traditional cut outs which almost appear simplistic in form but have so much depth and meaning to them and the way in which Walker uses the cut outs and even the title of her works, to tell a story and add to their depth. In the reading, it explained that Walker’s works usually represent the lives of slaves on large southern plantations, but instead of representing ‘real’ lives, Walker takes her inspiration from films and movies, like, “Gone With the Wind”, which in themselves, create an ‘imaginary’ world.  I also thought that the reasoning behind the ‘very blackness of traditional silhouettes’ and how the black paper erases differences in skin colour was interesting considering the stark differences in the figures, featured in Walker’s work, of those who hold power and of those who do not. Either between slave and slaveowner, man and woman etc which is depicted by clothing, stance etc.

Walker’s works explain narratives through the use of imagery and shed light on society’s view on slavery by playing off of popular movies like, ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’. Within her works, Walker is able to question reality and societal norms while maintaining her renowned ‘style’ of delivering startling and poignant messages of the past and allowing the viewer to question what they know.

Kara Walker, ‘Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred between the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart’, 1994.

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