Indigo Prayers: A Creation Story, a series of paintings by local Atlanta artist, Charmaine Minniefield, inspired by her time in the Gambia, West Africa searching for her grandmother's ancestral lines. The resulting body of work builds on an ongoing exploration of the Ring Shout, an African American practice of resistance whose West African origins predate enslavement. This full-bodied rhythmic prayer was taught to Minniefield by her great-grandmother. It was performed by her ancestors during enslavement as a way to secretly preserve their African identity.
Minniefield’s work explores indigenous pigments like indigo, crushed oyster shells, and mahogany bark as evidence of cultural preservation through time and across the Middle Passage. Her work recalls the history of these elements as ancestral totems reaffirming identity, like the Adinkra symbols in freedom quilts, hidden in plain sight to show the way home. Minniefield inserts her own body into each work as an act of remembrance. Her movements, embodied memories of her maternal ancestors, reassert Black identity and resilience as resistance today.
Indigo Prayers: A Creation Story is being presented in conjunction with Minniefield’s Praise Houses, which recreate the small, single-room structures in which enslaved people gathered to worship. The first in the series of Praise Houses was constructed at Oakland Cemetery in conjunction with Flux Projects to celebrate Juneteenth 2021 and honor the over 800 enslaved people interred in the cemetery’s African American burial grounds. While the Praise House at Oakland has now closed, she plans future locations in downtown Decatur, on Emory University’s Atlanta campus, and at South-View Cemetery, where Congressman John Lewis was laid to rest.
About the Artist
Firmly rooted in womanist social theory and ancestral veneration, the work of Charmaine Minniefield draws from indigenous traditions as seen throughout Africa and the Diaspora to explore African and African-American history, memory, and ritual as an intentional push back against erasure. Her creative practice is community-based as her research and resulting bodies of work often draw from public archives as she excavates the stories of African-American women-led resistance, spirituality, and power. Minniefield recently served as the Stuart A. Rose Library artist-in-residence at Emory University. Through a collaboration with Flux Projects, she presented her work Remembrance as Resistance: Preserving Black Narratives in Atlanta’s historically segregated cemetery to honor the over 800 unmarked graves that were discovered in the African-American burial grounds. Minniefield was awarded the prestigious National Endowment for the Arts Our Town Grant to present her Praise House project at three different locations in the metro Atlanta area to celebrate the African-American history of those communities. She currently splits her time in residence between Atlanta and the Gambia, where she continues to study the origins of her cultural identity and Indigenous traditions by tracing the Ring Shout.
Indigo Prayers: A Creation Story is presented in conjunction with Atlanta artist Charmaine Minniefield’s ongoing Praise House Project, in which the artist recreates the small, single-room structures used for gathering and worship.
On Sunday, August 28, a series of public events will take place to celebrate the closing of the exhibition and the launch of the Praise House Project at Emory including:
Conversation and Dance Performance | 1:30 p.m.
Dr. Julie B. Johnson, chair of the Department of Dance Performance and Choreography at Spelman College, and Tamara Williams, associate professor of dance at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, will join Charmaine Minniefield for a conversation about movement as medicine, embodied memory, and the Ring Shout as resistance. Following the conversation, seventh-generation shouter Griffin Lotson will lead the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters from Darien, Georgia in performance.
The program is free and open to the public and is co-sponsored by Emory’s Office of Spiritual and Religious Life and Program in Dance and Movement Studies.
Ancestral Feast | 4:30 p.m.
Michael C. Carlos Museum Ackerman Hall
Feasting was a part of Praise House gatherings across the South. Join artist activist Charmaine Minniefield for a contemporary take on the traditional gathering, prepared by Chef Cleophus Hethington, a James Beard finalist for "Best Emerging Chef," renowned in Atlanta for his Ębí Chop Bar pop-ups and his work at Lazy Betty. Break bread in honor of those who have come before as Minniefield shares her vision for the Praise House Project over the next two years, culminating with a Praise House on the Emory campus in 2023.
Fee: $60 for Carlos Museum members; $85 for non-members. Space is limited, and registration is required for this event. Visit HERE for more details and to register for this event.
To read the press release announcing the opening of the exhibition, click HERE.
Left: Charmaine Minniefield (American), Freedom, 2020, indigo and crushed oyster on canvas, © Charmaine Minniefield, Courtesy of Charmaine Minniefield
Right: Photo credit ©JerrySiegel.com