Dawn Williams Boyd American

Not on view

Sankofa is an example of what Boyd calls her cloth paintings, which range from the allegorical to the historical, often focusing on racial and social justice. Here the artist has assembled found, discarded scraps of fabric to create a central figure. Black, female, and nude, she is possessed of a powerful body that radiates beauty and authority. Twisting along her central axis, the figure turns to look behind herself, catching the viewer's gaze. Thanks to layers of shimmering fabric, she appears to float in a body of water. Framing her head is a sun that's either setting or rising, signifying natural cycles of rebirth. Around it are strips of blue and white fabric meant to evoke the sky. In her left hand, the figure holds images of Boyd's previous cloth paintings, applied to the surface by means of photo transfer. All around the body are other photo transfers, in this case of the artist and her family members. Overall, the work positions the Black female body within a matrilineal, or mother focused, family tree, establishing it as the source of vast creative and procreative powers. The title, Sankofa, is from an African word used by the Akan tribe in Ghana, with "san" meaning return, "ko" meaning go, and "fa" meaning seek and take. It is generally associated with the saying, "it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind," suggesting in turn the importance of the past, both personal and collective, to the present. The word has a symbolic counterpart as well, an abstracted bird that twists on its central axis to look behind itself. This very symbol served as the inspiration for the composition of Boyd's cloth painting.

Sankofa, Dawn Williams Boyd (American, born Neptune, New Jersey 1952), Cotton, polyester, photo-transfer on fabric

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