- Hanging Timelines:Seven New Pieces of Malaika Favorite Art
My background in creating historical pieces stems from my fascination with the history of African American people, an interest initiated by a lack of adequate acknowledgement of their place in history. To fill in the gaps, I started with my experiences, those of family and friends, and finally turned to the larger picture of the historical map of western civilization. My first question was how was I seen on the map of Southern history? I realized that, like me, most African Americans have not received a fair treatment in history. To correct this, I created the art seen in Figures 1-7 which, I believe, provides a framework for personal and collective memory, helping others to appreciate the missing portions of history. My odyssey to label and explain unrecorded history has consumed much of my work, a series of text-based art in which text is an abstract element that charts the unknown as well as records the experiences that African Americans have not revealed to the white world.
By combining found objects with surface details, I document the undocumented in the language of art inspired by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque who originated the collage. Braque’s Le Courrier (1913), for instance, used cut paper, imitation wood, tobacco wrappers, a playing card, and newspaper. In Picasso’s Violin and Sheet Music (1912), the sheet music contrasts with the otherwise flat tones and patterns in the collage. Early critics considered the use of a collage in painting as absurd and illogical. Picasso once jokingly declared, “Look, we can make works of art out of the contents of the waste baskets” (Barr, 80). As a result of this breakthrough, artists have been liberated from limiting themselves to painting in oil, to expressing themselves with what they found in their environment. Thus history could be attached or glued to a painting as is, without making a painted copy of what the artist saw or found. [End Page 110]
Women in History (Figure 1) is my collage, measuring 30 inches by 23 inches, created in 2014 as a text-based work. This piece is composed of snatches of my own artistic history; images from portions of sketches and cut paper from old works layered in sheets of gauze that I preserved in my artistic diaries. The headless woman seen in Women in History is a vital part of my art history studies as well, indebted to depictions of the female torso found in antiquity and often displayed in art through the ages. I immediately identified with the headless torso because it symbolized how I felt growing up in south Louisiana. As a body in Southern space, my worth was valued according to the labor I could offer, but my mind was not counted in the net value of my productivity. The border overlapping the text in Women in History flattens into the patterns associated with African art, particularly the hot colors often worn by black women in the South and displayed in Mardi Gras costumes. This symbolism emphasizes the dance of colors that has shaped and decorated the lives of African American women.
My background contextualizes what my art stands for and how I create it. As a black child, growing up in south Louisiana, I was given only a sliver of history written in books with missing pages and scratched out realities. There were very few pages in the books about black people, and even fewer about black women. We were seen as appendages to the larger story. We were not a part of the story; we were the people who happened to watch history ride by in the big parade. Never were we the event—we were the onlookers who cheered and received carnival beads as our reward for sweeping the streets after the great parade. My art and stories reclaim the history of these black women lost in the narration.
The hangers seen in Figure 1 and Figure 7 continue my practice of using household objects in my art. In this case, they symbolize something to hang my history on. The hanger is a visual document of who...