Sistahs in Indigo: A Conversation featuring Arianne King Comer and Ifé Franklin
A special conversation between Gibbes Visiting Artist Arianne King Comer and artist and activist Ifé Franklin exploring the power of indigo and each artists' dynamic work.
This event was presented by the College of Charleston African American Studies Program and Avery Research Center For African American History and Culture in Collaboration with the Gibbes Museum of Art.
About our speakers
Arianne King Comer, a BFA graduate of Howard University, resides in North Charleston, SC as an artist, teacher, art consultant, and indigo advocate. In 1992, King Comer received the UN/USIS grant to study under the renowned Batik artist Chief Nike Davies-Okundaye in Oshogbo Nigeria, where her passion for indigo manifested. Since then, the artist has developed and led community-based textile and multi-media programs which include Yoruba Design Workshops at John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina, custom design classes for SPACE Gifted Student Program for Charleston County Schools as well as the SC Statewide Art Teacher's Workshop in Textile Design and Indigo Dyeing.
King Comer's work has been exhibited widely at prestigious institutions and galleries including the Columbia Museum of Art, City of Charleston's City Gallery at Waterfront Park, The Penn Center museum, and Zenith Gallery in Washington, DC. She is a board member of the International Center for the Indigo Culture (ICIC) and an SC representative for Economic Empowerment through Crafts through Bloomberg Philanthropy Project. King Comer is also an active member of the Gullah Society's Artist Program established in 2018.
While in residence at the Gibbes Museum, the artist will focus on several projects involving quilting a special piece for the Acres of Ancestry Initiative to a batik painting in remembrance of the Reburial of Enslaved on the ground of the Galliard at Anson and George Streets and in honor of the recently departed Doctor Ajani Ofunnyin.
Ifé Franklin has worked as a professional artist and community activist for over 30 years. Born and raised in Washington,D.C., Ifé began her arts education in high school, focusing then on black and white photography.
Ifé entered The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in the late 1980’s where she studied performance art, voice, video production, ceramics, and “The Art of Africa,” where she met her mentor, Master Adire Artist Mr. Stanley Pinckney.
Ifé owns and operates IféArts. which produces sculpture, installations, drawings, collage, photography, as well as fiber arts.
Ifé's book The Slave Narrative of Willie Mae was released in spring of 2018 and has since been donated and received by The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C.
Ifé believes it is her destiny to create and use her voice to convey her passion for the arts and her love for freedom, peace and justice.
Deep Blue: The Indigo Exhibition | March 6-April 16, 2021
"Deep Blue: An Indigo Exhibition" features ten indigo artists from across the Lowcountry and beyond, including Kibibi Ajanku, Kristy Bishop, Arianne King Comer, Kelly Fort, Dale Fort, Ifé Franklin, Caroline Harper, Heather Powers, Marion Scott Readett, and Mary Young, Each artist individually explores their connections to the historically significant plant, sharing works of art that summon stories and encourage introspection. Programming will accompany this show throughout its run, including a streaming of the documentary film "Blue Alchemy: Stories of Indigo" by Mary Lance, off-site excursions to a local indigo farm, shibori classes, outdoor indigo workshops, and more. This show runs March 6-April 16 in the East Gallery at Public Works Art Center in Summerville, SC, and the official reception is Thursday, March 25 from 6pm-8:30pm.
The Slave Narrative of Willie Mae: An experimental Performance Piece | Audio Flyer | Feb 2021
Excerpt from The Slave Narrative of Willie Mae. Audio flyer created by Riot Aphrodite Diaz images by Ife Franklin/Julie Rioux
The Slave Narrative of Willie Mae (TSNWM) is a work of historical fiction by multidisciplinary artist Ifé Franklin which tells the story of Willie Mae Lenox, a 20-year old Black woman enslaved in Virginia in the mid 1800s, who sets upon her journey to freedom. During the time of enslavement, Willie Mae and her contemporaries were rendered invisible in public life and spaces. TSNWM began as a series of blog posts and live readings and was published in book form in 2018, edited by Letta Neely, published by Wild Heart Press, and printed by Red Sun Press (ISBN 966309715, 9780966309713). TSNWM is now taking the form of a performance piece which invites the audience into Willie Mae’s environment, creating a sense of connection and immediacy between today’s community members and those who lived their lives in American chattel slavery. This project is not merely an artistic enterprise, it is a metaphysical one – it represents the transformation of the book into a living embodiment of the enslaved ancestors and co-creating with the audience a shared future of freedom and liberation.
The Slave Narrative of Willie Mae: A Performance Piece is supported by the New England Foundation for the Arts' Creative City Boston program, with funding from the Barr Foundation. This project is also made possible in part by a Live Arts Boston grant from the Boston Foundation.
Celebrating Black History Month: All Day, Every Day | AMC Networks | Feb 2021
Black leaders and movements are celebrating and enriching a story that is still being written and added to every day. [Image of Ifé Franklin by Maddie Meyer via Getty Images at 0:08/0:35]
Feb 4, 2021
Longfellow House-Washington's Headquarters NHS Fall Lecture Series: The Slave Narrative of Willie Mae | November 2020
The National Park Service and Friends of the Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters are pleased to announce the 2020 Fall Lecture Series, which will take place virtually. This year’s eight-part series examines histories of social change through the lens of activism, politics, and the arts. Featured speakers include historians, artists, and poets whose work resonates with the unique history of the site.
Professional artist and activist Ifé Franklin invites members of the community to a reading of her book The Slave Narrative of Willie Mae. Written in the voice of Franklin’s great-grandmother, Willie Mae McCain, who was born in Virginia on the threshold of emancipation, this narrative brings to life Willie Mae's journey from enslavement to freedom. This book is in the collection of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Ifé Franklin dressed as Willie Mae "spraying" the graves of Cicely and Jane.
Cicely and Jane were enslaved in Boston/buried in the Old Burial Grounds in Harvard Square during the 1700's. They were both young when the died. Jane 15 years old at death, Cicely 22 years old The spraying is done with gin to cleanse, appease, and heal their souls. The remains of several hundred enslaved people are buried in graves sites that many who reside in Boston walk by everyday without the knowledge/history that our enslaved ancestors rest there. Part of my art-making is to help to preserve their memory.
Juneteenth 2019: Book Reading - Ifé Franklin | June 2019
Ifé Franklin reads from her book "The Slave Narrative of Willie Mae" at the Juneteenth Celebration at the Malden Senior Center. June 19th, 2019.
Ifé Franklin's Indigo Project/Community Ring Shout. Footage by Leo Alarcon | Sept. 2017.
Ifé Franklin's Indigo Project entered a new phase with funding from The New England Foundation for The Arts and The Barr Foundation in 2017 to bring to life the 4th ancestor slave cabin and a community ring shout, held in Franklin Park, Boston, Ma. This version of "Run Mary Run" a ring shout song performed by Jubilee Curator/artist/singer Rashida Bumbray . I came upon Ms. Bumbray's piece while researching ring shouts on youtube. I also did research on The McIntosh County Shouters. The beautiful and strong Geechee/Gullah dialect and cadence was difficult for me to grasp, Ms. Bumbray's "Run Mary Run" provided a pathway for me to share this incredible art form passed on from "the olds souls" that connects the cosmologies that forms of black music. Black ritual music such as the ring shout/black gospel music/jazz/blues etc has infused and transformed music worldwide. These connections are so strong this is why I was also able to incorporate the lyrics to Nina Simone's "See line woman" into this ring shout. In adding this element I was able to honor "Black Music" past and the present. As with every ring shout shared, I and community honor the lives and legacy of enslaved ancestors of the rural south that held on to the ways of Africa as they braved their situation, using these songs and dances to keep them rooted/connected to their culture and to each other.
Video footage by Leo Alarcon.
Artist Ifé Franklin -Community Ring Shout/Ancestor Slave Cabin Franklin Park MA | Video footage by Wayne Lake | Sept. 2017.
Ifé Franklin's Indigo Project entered a new phase with funding from The New England Foundation for The Arts and The Barr Foundation in 2017 to bring to life the 4th ancestor slave cabin and a community ring shout, held in Franklin Park, Boston, Ma. This is a version of "Run Mary Run" a ring shout song performed by Jubilee Curator/artist/singer Rashida Bumbray . I came upon Ms. Bumbray's piece while researching ring shouts on youtube. I also did research on The McIntosh County Shouters. The beautiful and strong Geechee/Gullah dialect and cadence was difficult for me to grasp, Ms. Bumbray's "Run Mary Run" provided a pathway for me to share this incredible art form passed on from "the olds souls" that connects the cosmologies that forms of black music. Black ritual music such as the ring shout/black gospel music/jazz/blues etc has infused and transformed music worldwide. These connections are so strong this is why I was also able to incorporate the lyrics to Nina Simone's "See line woman" into this ring shout. In adding this element I was able to honor "Black Music" past and the present. As with every ring shout shared, I and community honor the lives and legacy of enslaved ancestors of the rural south that held on to the ways of Africa as they braved their situation, using these songs and dances to keep them rooted/connected to their culture and to each other.
Video footage by Wayne Lake.
New England Authors with Kameel Nasr | Aug 14, 2019
Cambridge Community Television
Ife Franklin's Slave Cabin Ring Shout | Video by Michael Gordon Penn | Sept. 2017
The Slave Narrative of Willie Mae | N. Charleston SC Arts Fest | Apr. 2016
Thurs. 4/28/2016 at Felix Pinckney Community Center, 4764 Hassell Street, North Charleston, SC 29405.
In the most recent manifestation of her ongoing indigo/slave cabin project, Ifé presents a life size replica of a slave cabin painted indigo and marked with symbols.
The project provides a historical context to highlight the importance of slave dwellings. The structure honors African/African Americans who produced cotton and indigo during their enslavement in the American South and also serves as a dwelling for the spirits of these ancestors, who never had a home of beauty or a home of their very own.
Following a performance of The Slave Narrative of Willie Mae, in which the artist calls upon the spirit of her own ancestors, the public will be invited to write messages to their ancestors directly on the cabin structure as a means to communicate with these old souls.