"I feel like my own identity was born in those cotton fields."
March 18, 2015 7:48 AM   Subscribe

Victorian mourning dress embodies black history
"Vancouver artist Karin Jones has made a powerful installation about black history at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.It’s a braided black Victorian mourning dress made from artificial hair extensions used by black women. Surrounding the dress on the floor are cotton bolls that contain the artist’s hair. I’ve only seen images the work online. Even so, I found myself really moved by the way it uses beauty to embody painful truths about slavery and the history of people of African descent in North America."
posted by Lexica (9 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Full-length pictures of the piece at Jones' website, and a review from Holr Magazine, here. (I couldn't really see the pictures in the OP on my phone, so I went looking for alternatives.)
posted by EvaDestruction at 8:48 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I worked on the Chris Rock hair doc--I'm a bit surprised that she hadn't heard of extensions before:

"Among black women, hair extensions are big business. I only know that because I’ve watched Chris Rock’s Good Hair. Until I saw the documentary, I had no idea that African-American women spend vast amounts of money on straightening their hair and buying hair extensions to give them longer and/or thicker hair."

If she'd used the real hair extensions, there would have been another layer of context to this piece.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:05 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

That quote abut Good Hair is from the journalist, not the artist.
posted by maudlin at 9:36 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Huh. Apparently I need to get my ass to the ROM again.

Hmmmmmmmmmm meetup?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:46 AM on March 18, 2015

maudlin--Thanks, I read too fast. That's why the paper should have sent a woman to do the interview.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:09 AM on March 18, 2015

That is very visually striking, it's a great pairing of medium and form. I wonder about using the same technique to re-make more contemporary clothes or objects, though... the pairing of the Victorian dress with the present-day hair is throwing me a little and I'm trying to settle what I think it's saying about time.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:31 PM on March 18, 2015

Oh, I saw this dress when I was at the ROM on Valentine's Day. I had gone to see another exhibit, but when I prowled through some others as well afterwards this dress definitely made an impact on me.
posted by orange swan at 5:51 PM on March 18, 2015

This is awesome, thankyou!
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 3:57 AM on March 19, 2015

The era was a time when more and more people started travelling as tourists outside their own country. Europeans became fascinated with areas of the world they considered exotic such as Africa. One person who embodied that exoticism was Sarah (Saartjie) Baartman, a Khoikhoi woman from southern Africa who was brought to Europe and turned into a marketing spectacle as the Hottentot Venus.

“She was paraded around as a sideshow,” Jones said.

“They promoted her as this symbol of primitive sexuality because she had a really big butt. Europeans were fascinated by her and her body.”

The focus on one part of Baartman’s body by Europeans is related to the development of the bustle, the mid to late 19th century women’s fashion accessory meant to support the back of a dress. The bustle focussed attention on the buttocks of women as a centre of eroticism and sexuality.
Holy crap! I did not realize the fashionable bustle was due to a fascination with African butts! The origins of fashion!

Also, there is some amazing intricate work going on in the bodice of that dress. Gorgeous!
posted by jillithd at 1:44 PM on March 19, 2015

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