Black History Culture : The Quilts of Gee's Bend

Discussion in 'Black History - Culture - Panafricanism' started by Akilah, Dec 4, 2005.

  1. Akilah

    Akilah Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Hollywood could hardly create a more unlikely scenario than the extraordinary success of the Gee’s Bend quilters. The script would read like this: Generations of African-American women living in a poor, isolated rural community in the Deep South make quilts to keep their families warm and to brighten their homes. Their quilts are “discovered,” collected, and displayed as major works of art in a traveling exhibition that takes the country by storm. Organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Tinwood Alliance of Atlanta, The Quilts of Gee’s Bend marks the first time these stunning quilts have been seen in a public forum. The exhibition has been shown to critical acclaim at such museums as the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., and most recently at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Now, the Chrysler brings these extraordinary creations to Hampton Roads.

    The remote rural community known as Gee’s Bend occupies an area of land some five miles across and seven miles deep inside a horseshoe-shaped bend in the Alabama River. Geography has defined life in Gee’s Bend over several generations. The first African Americans to settle in the area were the slaves of John Gee, for whom the Bend is named. Cut off on three sides from the outside world by the Alabama River, a ferry operated sporadically until the 1960s. Much like an island, the community remained insulated in large measure from the forces of change. The descendants of the first people in Gee’s Bend continued on as small farmers who did well in the early 1900s when cotton prices were high. They suffered as cotton prices declined in the 1920s and fell on very hard times during the Great Depression. What nature created at the Bend, history has reinforced. Isolation is only half the story of Gee’s Bend; the other half is tradition. Because the inhabitants of Gee’s Bend were left largely to themselves for nearly 100 years after the end of the Civil War in 1865, many of the community’s traditions and folkways survived virtually unchanged well into the 20th century. Quilting is one of the most important of these traditions.

    The quilts in the exhibition represent four generations of artists who took fabric from their everyday lives—corduroy, denim, cotton sheets, and well-worn clothing—and fashioned them into compositions that more closely resemble modernist abstract paintings than familiar quilt patterns. The women learned the craft from their mothers or grandmothers but the emphasis was always on individuality and innovation. Quilters made the tops by themselves and occasionally got together for the quilting. Most of the quilts in the exhibition are of the type known as piece, strip, or patchwork. As Mensie Lee Pettway, a Gee’s Bend quilter says about tradition of quilt-making, “A lot of people make quilts just for your bed, for to keep you warm, but a quilt is more. It represents safekeeping, it represents beauty, and you could say it represents family history.”

    http://www.quiltsofgeesbend.com/

    http://www.chrysler.org/geesbend_archive.asp

    http://www.auburn-opelika.com/Comments/frmComment.aspx?COM_ID=9

    http://www.julecollinssmithmuseum.com/exhibition.html
     
  2. Isaiah

    Isaiah Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Sista Akilah, how are you doing???!(smile!)

    Hey, I saw a wonderful PBS Documentary on these wonderful African American ladies, and their work! They remind me so much of my grandmother, how she, too, made these wonderful AFRICAN quilts for me and my siblings many years ago... They Follow the very same geometric themes as in African quilting, are clear examples of our retentions of African Culture...

    What is so inspiring about these ladies, is that theirs is a revenue-generating enterprise which enabled many of them to purchase their homes, and new applicances, and so forth... It would be great if younger sisters could be trained by these wonderful women, particularly from urban areas... Imagine what that would do to help sustain families, and keep our culture pure and in tact??? Sister from DA GUMP, you somepum somepum, and a sugah dumplin' - thank you for this great addition to this forum!(smile!)




    Peace!
    Isaiah
     
  3. Akilah

    Akilah Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    HEY BRUTHA ISAIAH !!!!

    I'm doing great, how are you dear ???

    Yes those beautiful Sister-Mother Queens are something special...
    My husband and I attended The Gee's Bend Quilts grand finale' exhibit and reception at Auburn University's Jule Collins Museum this past weekend. There had to be at least 50 of those magnificent quilts showcased along with a short film shown in the gallery and the entire PBS documentary being shown in the auditorium. But best of all ... about 20 of the quilters themselves were in attendance !!!! Brutha Isaiah...seeing those dear ladies and watching their stories on the films touched me so deeply...especially the parts of about how they were misused so badly by the plantation owners and bankers that they sharecropped for...I cried and cried...not sobbing, but big tears rolling down my cheeks...and the white folks made me so sick ! They just oohed and awed over the quilts..completely missing the signifigance of what those quilts stood for ! They were lining up getting autographs on the books,
    t shirts, cd covers (Oh yes, they were selling cd's of the spirituals they sang while quilting - the Ladies even broke out and favored us w/ a few hymns in accappella which sounded supernatural w/ the acoustics of those high vaulted ceilings) any little scrap of paper they could find. Personally, I didn't feel worthy to even approach them - (foolishly so...) cause to me they were like ROYALTY. My husband wanted to buy the book (the museum store was sold out !) but he said he wouldn't have asked for their autographs because that would be too much like TAKING something from them...perpetuating what the whites had done and continue to do, some say.

    Oh and by the way...I'm from Michigan... I just reside in da' Gump... but i'll gladly accept being somepum somepum and a sugah dumplin' !!! :huh:*heehee*
     
  4. Isaiah

    Isaiah Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Sista Akilah, neither marital status or geographical location could change the fact that you somepum-somepum and real sugah dumplin'(smile!)

    And yes, Akilah, those beautiful African women are a metaphor for ALL African women, who give, and give, and give, while everyone takes, takes, and takes from them... God, I got such a warm feeling just listening to the sound of those ladies voices during that documentary... I thought the white guy meant well, but he talked a little too much for my liking(smile!) But, then, that's just me, allowing "expert" white guys to get on my nerves, I guess(smile!)

    Again, Akilah, thank you for this great topic of discussion...

    Peace!
    Isaiah
     
  5. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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    Thank you for this thread, Sister Akilah! :toast:


    More of us need to be aware of our African legacies in quilting all over this country and basket weaving like the Gullah women of the Sea Islands.
     
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