My family is from an area of South Louisiana called Bois Mallet. We are Creoles of color, and the mix of our ancestry is thorough, representing at least 17 countries in four continents.  Bodies of Bois Mallet is a multi-vocal exploration of our living history. The two project elements presented here are “self portraits in bloom and decay,” a series of planted ceramic vessels and “what can heal a wound?” a handwoven fabric of an archival text. 

To begin this project, I traced my ancestry as far back as I could, identified plants that were native to the places where my ancestors come from and gathered seeds for these plants.

I then hand built a series of ceramic vessels with a unified soil bed and diverse depths and drainages, filled them with soil and planted them with the seeds I had gathered. I nurtured this self-ecology through a full cycle of birth, life and death.

These “self-portraits in bloom and decay” are composed of hand-built ceramic vessels, soil, seeds*, stumbles, plants*, transplants*, partial truths, time, mistakes, sunlight, water, archival research, oral history, death, and family conversation

*Seeds/plants include: lavender, black sesame, dandelion, thyme, yarrow, chicory, basil, strawberries, amarynth, mint, bear’s garlic, sweet mace, melegueta pepper, black salsify, borage, rosemary, chamomile, flax, elderberry, jasmine, maypop, shamrock, moss, moringa, yams

The second element of this project is a hand woven fabric questioning the authority of an archival newspaper article that by turns exalts and dehumanizes my great grandfather (Bruno St. Andre, the “Heroic Negro” of the headline) on the occasion of his death.  The process of weaving this document was a performative action, processing it’s voice, rendering it malleable and reclaiming the destructive truth and fallibility–our cultural complexity–line by woven line.

What can heal a wound?
words, fire, earth, time?
children, trees
some so deep
rootstocks throw
up shoots in new
lands and hands
move knowing
not knowing
knowing where, 
they must

Dimensions: 60”x 36”
Date: 2020
Materials: Handwoven fabric, oral history, found archival text, the embodied act of processing and making malleable legacies of heroism and grief, honor and inhumanity

detail of textile