The Middle Passage: White Ships, Black Cargo
Drawings from the Book by Tom Feelings
May 2, l998 - July 1, 1998
The Bruce Museum presents The Middle Passage: White Ships, Black Cargo; Drawings from the Book by Tom Feelings from May 2, 1998 through July 1, 1998. The exhibition features approximately fifty drawings by African-American artist Tom Feelings detailing the importation of Africans from their homeland to the New Worid. These drawings, original mixed-media works of tempera and pen-and-tissue from Feelings' book The Middle Passage, are painfully compelling and beautifully articulated images that tell the cruel and terrifying story of the slave trade.
Facing this dark moment in our past is a difficult task, one that took Tom Feelings over twenty years to document and depict to his satisfaction. The Middle Passage: White Ships, Black Cargo conveys, without words, the fear, pain, and sheer power of the human will to survive. The eerie, spiritual silence of the drawings creates a startling, powerful tribute to the Africans who traveled "The Middle Passage," the name given to the leg of the Triangle Trade voyage that went from Africa to the New World, and one that changed the destinies of millions of people.
Feelings calls the work a "psychological and spiritual journey back in order to move forward." No one can experience it and remain unmoved. But while we absorb the brutality of these images, we can also find some hope in them. ihey are a tribute to the survival of the human spirit, and the humanity won by the survivors of the Middle Passage belongs to us all.
Tom Feelings has focused on African culture and the Black American experience throughout his distinguished career. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, the artist grew up as the civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s swept America. He attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City and later lived in Ghana, West Africa, and Guyana, South America. He is the recipient of a grant from The National Endowment of the Arts, and is currently a professor of art at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina.
His award-winning visual images are included in Soul Looks Back in Wonder (Dial), a book with original poems by Maya Angelou and Margaret Walker, among others, as well as a previously unpublished poem by Langston Hughes. His works from this book were on exhibit at the Schomburg Center for Black Culture in New York City. Mr. Feelings also collaborated with Maya Angelou on Now Sheba Sings the Song.
The Middle Passage: White Ships, B/ack
Cargo consists of flawlessly researched and intensely
personal drawings through which Tom Feelings presents a visual continuation
of the ancient African tradition of oral storytelling. The events are portrayed
with searing eloquence: captives shackled two-by-two in cramped, vermin-filled
quarters, moaning in a chorus of different tongues; brought topside to face
fresh agony by vicious crews; rebelling, choosing certain death over the
living death below decks. Achingly real, the drawings pull us into the lives
of the millions of African men, women, and children who were savagely torn
from their beautiful homelands, crowded into disease-ridden "death
ships," and transported under nightmarish conditions to the so-called
New World. We see also the incredible resilience of those who reached the
New World, for only the strong survived the crossing.
This emotionally unrestrained and provocative exhibition, The Middle Passage: White Ships, Black Cargo; Drawings from the Book by Tom Feelings, is on display at the Bruce Museum as part of a national tour organized by the McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina.
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Greenwich, Connecticut, just off 1-95, and a three-minute walk from the
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