This is the beautiful, and symbol-filled, work of Dominican Republic born, New York based artist Firelei Báez. I recently heard a talk about Firelei, and my goodness, there is power in every square inch of her work. Take a closer look at the headdress in the first piece, titled ‘Sans Souci’ … black panthers and chains. She also regularly features the black fist symbol, and even the headdresses, known as tignons, are not just decoration… they represent the 18th century headdress – imposed by law – for women of color in New Orleans. It was meant to oppress them, but these women used patterns and designs from their home countries, and instead turned this racist law into a symbol of power and beauty. Brilliant. Here is a little bit about why Firelei does what she does:
“Through a convergence of interest in anthropology, science fiction, black female subjectivity and women’s work; her art explores the humor and fantasy involved in self-making within diasporic societies, which have an ability to live with cultural ambiguities and use them to build psychological and even metaphysical defenses against cultural invasions.”
Just in case you don’t know what a diasporic society is, it’s defined as “a scattered population whose origin lies in a separate geographic locale. In particular, diaspora has come to refer to involuntary mass dispersions of a population from its indigenous territories” … the African Trans-Atlantic slave trade, for example.