During the Covid-19 pandemic, unfortunately, but as expected, news emerged that Black men, in particular, are being targeted by police and security guards in public places for simply following federal guidelines and wearing face masks.
This got me to thinking about traditional African uses of masking--as a way for the ancestors to communicate with their descendants, congratulate them on their accomplishments, admonish them for forgetting those who came before, and warn them of challenges to come.
I attended many ceremonies while I was in Ouidah, Benin Republic; witnessed the egunguns' beauty and power, experienced the otherworldly energy that they brought with them into the family and community circle.
This issue of mask harassment also reminded me of the powerful tradition that enslaved people brought with them into the diaspora of "wearing the mask"; keeping their true selves hidden and intact in the face of discrimination and disenfranchisement.
"Masking While Black" reframes this moment of renewed persecution of Black men in the diaspora, perhaps even urging us to reclaim our ancestral power to resist those who seek to criminalize Black beauty and strength.
Materials: goauche on watercolor paper
These are museum-quality prints made on thick and durable matte paper.
• Paper thickness: 10.3 mil
• Paper weight: 5.6 oz/y² (192 g/m²)
• Giclée printing quality
• Opacity: 94%