Witness to Captivity
by Visual Artist and Photographer Kay Reese
Part of NJPAC’s TD James Moody Jazz Festival
Words of Witness
jazz at ahavas sholom
Witness to Captivity examines the abstract art of visual artist and photographer Kay Reese through the mediums of spoken word and music.
Reparations for Africans, Black Americans, Jews, and Native peoples has been a clarion call for having lived in the horrors of enslavement, torture, rape, brutality, violence and subjugation. Much of this terror has been at the hands of White Europeans, Americans and other nationalities, religious groups, and governmental authorities.
Kay Reese, visual artist and photographer’s abstract narrative ‘Witness to Captivity’ specifically offers the vileness of enslavement from the African’s point of view. Reparations might repair their financial loss which was designed to empower America and Europe’s economies while simultaneously disenfranchising and degrading the African presence in the New World. But it was also based on the racial and social superiority of their enslavers. Reese asks the question who can repair the African American’s three-hundred-year loss of their freedom, languages, cultures, families, and basic human rights.
Their human losses are never spoken of, nor considered important. Their reality never included in America’s educational or historical annals. Enslavement was, and is understood as no more than an economic transaction.
The claim for economic justice is real and persists today. However, pondering these issues brought Reese to her own immediate past, and her Southern born maternal grandmother’s story of her deep love for Hestor Lodehost, her grandmother; a formerly enslaved black woman freed from a Georgia plantation in Lincoln’s Great Emancipation.
For Reese, the enslavement of her own relatives no longer remained a distant, faceless story of loss wages, America’s measure of human importance. She, however wondered about the feelings of earlier African men, women and children who were kidnapped from their homes, brought to face to face with enslavement by other ethnic tribesmen, Portuguese, Europeans, and Americans. She wondered how they felt; terrified of being captured, losing everything, family, culture, religion, language, relationships. Their homes. Themselves. For no reason save the monetary usefulness of their labor and generational knowledge.
‘Witness to Captivity’ uniquely uses visual abstraction to reveal slavery’s complete horror like a mute who does not possess words sufficient to its challenge. Reese’s exhibition employs a range of textures and violent swatches of brilliant color, and bold form that enable a deeper emotional and humane connection to observers who are usually reliant upon verbal language or representational images. In the title of each work, however, she gives insight into the thoughts and feelings of the captured Africans held timelessly within fluidly surreal landscapes.
The ‘Witness to Captivity’ exhibition is open Sundays from September/October 2023 to February 2024.
The Museum is located in the second floor of Ahavas Sholom, 145 Broadway, Newark, NJ 07014
For more information, call Jeff at 973-207-3095.
To RSVP click here.