MALENE BARNETT: What's Left Behind
Through gathering fragments of intimate family histories consisting of photographs, oral stories, and my imagination -- my work is a reinvention of self and archival practices through the hands of Black women makers. Drawing from Map to the Door of No Return, Dionne Brand writes, "To live in the Black diaspora is I think to live as a fiction--a creation of empires, and also self-creation. It is to be a being living inside and outside herself. It is to apprehend the sign one makes yet unable to escape it except in radiant moments of ordinariness made like art." My self-creation began by tracing my heritage through DNA composites and comprehending the Black diaspora's creation in the Caribbean through the lens of Black women makers. The results brought me to Nigeria, Jamaica, St. Vincent, and the United States. I focused on each locale's makers, their textile and pottery histories, and the communities that fought for liberation against all forms of oppression. I constantly grappled with a traumatic and painful past, the limitations of both historical and family archives, and a constant reinvention of self. My work reimagined these absences to create beautiful objects holding joyful memories from ancestral pottery and textiles traditions brought to the Caribbean from West Africa. My focal point is four generations of women within my family: my great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, and myself. In each repetitive process and imagery, my work gives voice to the diversity of the diaspora, connecting the Caribbean to America. In creating an archival practice through making, this work honors the souls of the named and nameless: a tribute to those who courageously pursued Black Life. Each object is a gift to the ancestors and an investment in Black archival futures. Shards of pottery will no longer be the primary source of our histories but rather the community's objects, documentation, and care.