Black Maternal Health Art Installation
In 2019 we were invited to Houston, TX by Project Row Houses to do an art installation for Round 50 entitled Race, Motherhood, & Health.
Our installation was entitled Untamed Womb: Reclaiming Wonder through Healing, Creativity and Liberation.
Our intention was to create a womb experience, explore all it’s wonder and possibilities, center healing through afro-spirituality and by honoring indigenous Black birth workers, Black women who write about Black motherhood, and the creators of the #ReproductiveJustice movement.
Doing this installation was setting an intention to make sure art is ALWAYS a part of the #BlackMaternalHealth movement. Documenting ourselves during the creation of this installation and our work ourselves places us as the authors and authority of our narrative. This installation was a celebration of creativity and ingenuity. It is a reminder of our commitment to this fight and more importantly our commitment to evolve Black mothers legacy of healing.
When we began, we repeatly said “Dem Black Mamas is more than a podcast.” Our intention is for Dem Black Mamas to be an experience rooted in healing, creativity and liberation. We strive to be a conversation WITH you! So when we ask for your emails and comments WE MEAN IT! We’re you join our lives and workshops, it inspires us and grounds us. This installation is the manifestation of our intention when we began.
The intention of this project is to return the power of the womb to Black Birth Persons. The Black maternal health crisis is the result of centuries of systemic and institutional oppression used to intentionally separate Black people from our bodies in an effort to control or “tame” our existence for the pleasure and perpetuation of white supremacy. When we are disconnected from our bodies we cannot fully engage our freedom because access to our full creative selves is limited. The research and conversations around Black maternal health is limited as well because it’s rooted in the medical system and racism both of which impact Black birth persons, however, this narrow lens leaves us stuck in pain and loss. The information we are given about Black maternal health is not our destiny or legacy. We contend that research regarding Black maternal health needs to be decolonized and the lens widen to focus on the importance of reconnecting to our bodies through Black indigenious tradition, practice and spirituality. We believe, if we root Black birth in healing, creativity, and liberation the possibilities of a transformational experience through the womb are infinite.
Aesthetics: We transformed the house into a womb rooted in joy, healing, creativity, and liberation expressed through Afro-spiritualism. We used a combination of mixed media to simulate the inside of a womb including film, projections, fabric, collages, and sound to create texture, tightness and wonder.
Participant Interaction: This installation was conversation which means we offered opportunities of exchange between the art and the audience, who we thought of as participants rather than voyeurs or visitors. Participants were invited to write one word on a wall in the communal space to describe the impact of the installation on them. We provided a space for them to add song titles which we used to curate a playlist for the installation that was able to be downloaded using a QR code. Participants were also invited to leave an offering of some kind (non-perishable items such as coins, stones, affirmations, shells, etc..) in each space (we will designate where). Elevating the installation from presentation to conversation transformed womb into a living organism constantly evolving through contributions rooted in our culture, ultimately becoming an altar, a place of reverence and honor.
Information Dissemination: We will disseminate information about different portions of the installation through QR codes which will be posted throughout the exhibit. Participants will be able to scan QR codes using their phones to listen to or read information about the exhibit and download a curated playlist.
Communal Space Expressed Through Sacral Chakra
This communal space reflected the energy we feel is most important to Black liberation which is joy and creativity housed in the sacral chakra. When we are able to access this energy we are able to transform our experience independent of whiteness and white affirming systems and institutions. We feel this is the energy systemic and institutional oppression blocks the heaviest because in order for white supremacy to thrive we cannot have creative control over our lived experience. Therefore connection to the sacral chakra which houses the womb is critical to Black maternal health.
Healing Room expressed through Yemaya
This room was inspired by the elements of healing represented by the Yoruba Orisha Yemaya, mother, healer, governing the life sustaining part of the ocean, the cycles of the moon, comforter, nurturer. Her salt waters collect our tears and allow us to leave her presence freed from sorrow, shame, guilt, and open to purpose therefore his room will honor women and children who did not survive birth and women who have had an abortion to echo the proclamation that Black maternal health is rooted in Reproductive Justice. Therefore ALL that transpires in the womb is worthy of healing. Her colors are Blue and White, her number is seven. This room included elements of water, blue, movement, images and sound that imitate being in the healing arms of Yemaya. The intention of this room is to remind participants that healing is always available and a necessary part of realizing purpose.
Creativity Room Expressed Through Oshun
This room was be inspired by the elements of creativity represented by the Yoruba Orisha Oshun, who governs pleasure, beauty, bravery, and fresh waters, the waters we drink and that make life possible. Her colors are yellow and white, her number is five, her metal is gold. This room included elements of running water, yellow, movement, images, sounds and textures that inspire the rush of pleasure and audacity represented by Oshun. The intention of this room is to inspire innovation. This room honored Granny midwives and the practices and rituals of indigenous Black birth workers.
Liberation Room Expressed Through Oya:
This room was inspired by the elements of liberation represented by the Yoruba Orisha Oya. Governing transformation, untamed feminine energy, and the necessary destruction that precedes all birth, Oya is a feminine warrior whose presence is essential to the correcting of any wrongs. She is known as the Niger River as well as the wind, from the subtle breeze to the fierce hurricane. Radical societal shifts, especially the liberation of Black bodies, falls in her domain, and are represented in this room as wind, a range of colors (she is also associated with the rainbow) copper, and imagery provoking an afrofuturistic look at the future of Black Maternal Health. This room honored current Black birthers and highlight how they have brought the rituals and practices of Black birth workers forward and bond it with the liberation of Black people.