Simultaneously quilt and flag, Amalia Amaki’s "Three Cheers for the Red, White and Blue #15" locates black history, culture, and experience as an integral part of the social fabric of “Americanness.” The stars and stripes of the American flag appear as irregular segments on the right and left of the central horizontal band, but it is the saturated blue stripes that are most striking. The stripes, which consist of photographic images printed as negatives and stitched together, depict a range of African Americans, from famous singers like Billie Holiday (center row, far left) to unidentified enslaved Africans (bottom row, far left). Some are from postcards, others are photographs salvaged at yard sales or cherished snapshots from the artist’s family albums. At the far right of the top row, Amaki identifies two maternal great-aunts, “Aunts Celie and Bee standing on the steps of their home in the 1920s.”
The original American flag was, like this quilt, made of cotton, using blue derived from the indigo plant. Both cotton and indigo were dominant products in the plantation economy of the transatlantic slave trade. Indigo was also part of centuries-old textile traditions in West Africa, where it was a technology often practiced by women (for example, the making of adire among the Yoruba). Amaki includes further traces of labor and history through the iron marks on the quilt, which allude to fortitude, courage, and collective memory.
African American; slavery; social commentary; flags; people; photographs
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