Answering the Call
Assemblage: whiskey barrel, satellite dishes, barbed wire, wire, e-waste, African beads, cowry shells, plexiglas, poem, acrylic paint, acrylic ink
Approximate H 82" x W 72"
Approximate H 82" x W 72"
Answering the Call is a work of art that speaks to a myriad of issues facing society today. The vintage "Jack Daniels" branded whiskey barrel is a metaphor for the drugs and alcohol pervading the African American and American landscape. The branding of the barrel with the name "Jack Daniels" is symbolic of the branding of slaves throughout the African Diaspora as well as the stripping of African names replaced by common European names. The shape of the barrel is reminiscent of African drums as instruments of communication. Attaching satellite dishes to the barrel is metaphorically a means of bridging past instruments of communication with present day tools of communication to relay cultural as well as universal messages.
The barrel is decorated with handmade and natural elements, beads and shells, representing elements in African art and culture. Cowry shells were once used as currency among Africans and beads were used as a medium of exchange during the period of the African / European slave trade. The barrel is also adorned with e-waste (computer parts, circuit boards, transistors, etc.) melding the past with the present state of enslavement.
The barrel is also symbolic of whiskey barrels loaded on ships during the period of African enslavement. The shape is also suggestive of a powder keg that held gun powder, changing the way wars were fought and power was reconstructed through tools of violence. There is a copper fuse extending from the wooden cork where the kegs tap would be inserted to remind us these are violent and volatile times and we are dealing with situations that need to be compassionately addressed.
We ship tons of e-waste from so-called first world countries to poor "third-world" countries, ridding our landfills of deadly contamination only to contaminate people of financially poorer circumstances. Children are found rummaging piles of e-waste daily searching for copper or salvageable computer parts in hope of finding enough salvageable e-waste to sell for pennies in order to buy food for themselves and family. In the process they are absorbing deadly lead, cadmium, chromium and other hazardous materials thereby endangering their lives. One of the three satellite dishes speaks to this issue with the poem "My Circuit Board Cities" written upon a sheet of plexiglass installed above computer circuit boards and a picture of children in Accra, Ghana walking upon piles of e-waste.
A second satellite dish speaks to the prison industrial complex in the USA and the over incarceration of African American males incarcerated in this system as a percentage of the total population as compared to other ethnic groups. A circuit board wrapped in barbed wire and housed under wire fencing is a metaphor for this system of imprisonment. A label attached to one of the elements on the circuit board ironically is labeled "American Megatrends". I didn't have to add the label, it was already there.
The third satellite dish is the dish that gives us hope for the future. Several small elements, planted upon a field of raw umber and raw sienna, the earth, sprouting around towering silver relics of the past, amidst rusted barbed wire and rusted fencing. George Bush I, called these symbols, a thousand points of light. Gwendolyn Brooks used the term "Furious Flowers". Buddhists will call them Boddhisatvas of the earth. These symbols represent the artists, musicians, humanitarians, singers, poets and dancers that bring civility to the meaning of civilization. They are the peace makers, the conscience of a sound humane society. These elements represent the people and spirits "Answering the Call" to correct and bring about change to the repressive conditions we have created for ourselves as human beings.