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I entered the Quilts



With spending longer periods of time at home during the early stages of the pandemic, I needed to make my space more comfortable. In the spirit of making use of what I already have, I returned to my own archives.


Back in 2016 I participated in my first group exhibition as a professional artist. Nia Centre for the Arts hosted the exhibition Exposed: Solace, curated by Genevieve Wallen. At the heart of the exhibition was the now popular quote from Audre Lorde’s book A Burst of Light: Essays. In this book, Lorde offers journal entries from her second experience of living with cancer. Towards the end of A Burst of Light Lorde writes: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation. And that is an act of political warfare.”


In reading this book and reflecting on the exhibition themes of self-love and self-care, I was inspired to focus on the ways I practice self-preservation. What came to me was a mix of sewing by hand and learning about the stories of Black people in Canada and across the Diaspora. In my attempts to articulate the ways these practices sustain me, I produced the project Every/day: Quilting The African Diaspora. Every/day included a combination of a participatory quilt project exhibited at the Gladstone Hotel, and a workshop series hosted at the Textile Museum of Canada.


The didactic panel I wrote to go with the quilt sums up what this work is all about:


Every/day

2016

Cotton, denim, cotton/lyocell blend, cotton/spandex blend, rayon, synthetic blends

290cm x220 cm

Re-interpreting various styles of quilting and patchwork from across the African Diaspora – Southern Ontario and Nova Scotia, Canada; Boykin, USA; Karnataka, India – Every/day proposes quilting as a process of meaning-making and memory, forms of self-care and self-love. This quilt references the creative, ingenious, resourceful, often unsung labour of Black women, inciting viewers to think of Blackness as deeply rooted in Canada and routed through the Diaspora. Multiple textures, colours, experiences, and silences are incorporated into a single object, thus documenting a particular moment – a memory – and resisting historical erasure of Black communities in Canada and across the world.

This quilt serves as an archive of the people of diverse backgrounds who attended the exhibition opening and contributed messages of self-love and self-care. In moments of heightened anti-Black violence, having these affirmations present in my living space is one way I support myself on a daily basis. I offer these images here in case they may offer some comfort to you.


By this point you may be asking, “what’s the connection to water here?” It would take at least 3 more years from the creation of Every/day before I would have an answer.


In 2019, I started to study Earth-honouring traditions and practical animism. I eventually learned that water can be associated with blood, memory and the ancestors. I see part of my interest in Aarchives as associated with these qualities of water. Looking back, Every/day was a catalyst that lead me to Aesthetics of the Archives. I wanted to learn more about my own specific paternal family lineage, to know the stories of my Caribbean-descended ancestors and how we came to Canada.


Every/day planted the seed that grew into Aesthetics of the Archives.


This blog post is connected to my Spring 2020 newsletter, which was dedicated to the qualities of water. To get the full story, you can subscribe to my newsletter here.

© 2020 Desmond A. Miller