A public art installation honoring the lives and traditions of African Americans and their ancestors will open with an afternoon reception in Franklin Park this Sunday, Sept. 10 from 3-7 p.m. The New England Foundation for the Arts’ Creative City program is backing Ifé Franklin’s “Indigo Project #4: Slave Cabin, Praise House, and Ring Shout,” which is free and open to the public. The cabin will be on view through September 15.
“The slave cabin is a homage to our African ancestors,” shares Franklin. “The cabin is reminiscent of actual cabins where slaves lived and we cover it with traditional adire -- indigo fabric dyeing – to reclaim their history as part of American history.”
This iteration of Franklin’s Indigo Project is the fourth she’s created over the years, and is life-size. Earlier versions have been exhibited at Medicine Wheel Productions, Franklin Park Art Grove, the Fitchburg Museum, and the Felix Pinkney Community Center in North Charleston, South Carolina.
“They have all been similar, in that they pay tribute to the ancestors,” Franklin continues, “but the newest one, #4, is the first to also serve as a ‘praise house’ and include the traditional ‘ring shout’ ceremony. I’m inviting the community to dress in white, and participate in the communal ring shout, and enjoy food together.”
“It’s been great including the community in learning adire,” Franklin says. “We gathered to dye the fabric in workshops at First Church in Roxbury.
For me, sharing the southwestern Nigerian techniques of Yoruba women honors the authentic prior to the African diaspora. I am a vessel—I listen to the ancestors—they talk to me as if in dreams. We then gather to cover the entire cabin in the resist-dyed fabric.”
First practiced by African slaves in the West Indies and the U.S.—the spiritual ritual invites both men and women move in a circle, counter-clockwise, stomping feet, clapping hands, and often shouting or praying aloud. The stomping and clapping often sound like drums or percussion – and the singing resembles calls, cries, and hollers—similar to field work songs, call and response, and spirituals.
Franklin has worked as a professional artist and community activist for over 25 years. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Ifé entered The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in the late 1980’s. Ifé continues to create Adire--traditional West African resist and dying textile techniques.
Creative City, made possible by the Barr Foundation with additional funding from the Boston Foundation, supports individual artists, artist collectives, and artistic collaborations in all disciplines and with roots in diverse cultures, forms, and aesthetics. Grants range from $2,500-$10,000, and an additional stipend will be available for community partners to help support presentation costs.