Black and Indigenous Art in Charleston

Griots of Cotton, Indigo, & Clay debuts the permanent collection of the Acres of Ancestry Initiative/Black Agrarian Fund, an evolution of the advocacy efforts of the Black Belt Justice Center. Curated by Torreah “Cookie” Washington, and featuring over 100 pieces of artwork commissioned from Black fiber artists in the South Carolina Lowcountry, the Black Belt South, and the African Diaspora at large, this vast array of textile art portrays the power of the Black imagination to extend beyond colonial frameworks, centering narratives of self-sustained land ownership and spirit-cultural reclamation.

Inspired by the movement for restoration of eco-cultural traditional practices, Griots of Cotton, Indigo, & Clay showcases the rich tradition of fiber art as material culture and tells the untold stories of struggle and resilience rooted in black ecocultural traditions and textile arts. The artworks of over four dozen seasoned artisans will be on view, including works by the artists of The Return of the Bees Collective. The collected artworks examine the ideals of racial pride, social power, identity, and the importance of land, heritage, and culture.

States exhibiting artist and curator Cookie Washington, “Black fiber artisans uphold the charge of griots, weaving together narratives of resistance into tactile expressions of land memory and visions for the future.” This traveling exhibition explores the innovations of eco-cultural techniques in appliqué, basket-weaving, collage, indigo, and painting, celebrating an ecosystem of over 50 master fiber artists, ceramicists, sweetgrass preservers, and blacksmiths.

This exhibition is generously supported by the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Estelle Colored Glass, Lady Farmer, the Kalliopeia Foundation, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.

The installation will be on view Thursdays through Sundays from noon to 5pm starting January 17 and closing February 27, 2022 at City Gallery.

Fighters for Freedom: William H. Johnson Picturing Justice (January 21, 2022 – August 7, 2022)

William H. Johnson painted his Fighters for Freedom series in the mid-1940s as a tribute to African American activists, scientists, teachers, and performers as well as international heads of state working to bring peace to the world. He celebrated their accomplishments even as he acknowledged the realities of racism, violence, and oppression they faced and overcame. Some of his Fighters—Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver, Marian Anderson, and Mahatma Gandhi—are familiar historical figures; others are less well-known individuals whose determination and sacrifice have been eclipsed over time. Drawn entirely from the collection of more than 1,000 works by Johnson given to the Smithsonian American Art Museum by the Harmon Foundation in 1967, this exhibition is the first-ever presentation of this series in Johnson’s home state of South Carolina.

Fighters for Freedom: William H. Johnson Picturing Justice is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum with generous support from Art Bridges, Faye and Robert Davidson, and the Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation.

The presentation of this exhibition at the Gibbes is made possible through the generous support of the Wayne and Carolyn Jones Charitable Foundation, with additional support from Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina, Jane Smith Turner Foundation, Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, South Carolina Arts Commission, and the Gibbes Women’s Council.

Dyani White Hawk HEAR HER at Halsey Gallery (JANUARY 14 – FEBRUARY 26, 2022)

Dyani White Hawk’s work illuminates the lived experiences of Native Peoples. With her video, photography, and works in other media, she aims to use the language of visual art to bring light to the deep chasm between our understanding of history and the truth. Her work weaves together forms from the canon of Western art along with the visual languages and traditions of Native people. In doing so, her work spotlights Native women, whose strength and fortitude through centuries of colonization have helped their peoples’ languages and cultures to survive.

On view in Hear Her, White Hawk’s video installation LISTEN presents a series of Native women speaking the language of their people. Each film takes place on the land of each participant’s nation, and viewers hear the respective languages without translation. As such, White Hawk puts a focus not only on the resonance of each speaker, but she also reveals society’s collective ignorance of the people, culture, and language of those native to the land on which we live. Chapter 1 of LISTEN features eight videos and White Hawk plans to continue the series to include 24 videos. The Halsey Institute commissioned White Hawk to create a video to honor the Catawba Nation, located in South Carolina.

White Hawk’s photography installation I Am Your Relative confronts the gross stereotypes and distorted caricatures that dehumanize and commodify Native women. This installation, along with LISTEN, helps White Hawk shine a light on the misrepresentation of Native Peoples while reinforcing the fact that we are all connected as human beings.

Dyani White Hawk: Hear Her is sponsored in part by South Carolina Humanities, a not-for-profit organization; inspiring, engaging and enriching South Carolinians with programs on literature, history, culture and heritage. This exhibition is also supported by the Center for Sustainable Development at the College of Charleston, which provides students with the opportunities and resources to engage in our community sustainably.

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