Monument Lab Fellow Thalia Fernández Bustamante writes about the impact COVID-19 has had on Indigenous communities in Mexico and the challenges they are currently facing. Bustamante delves deeper into how Indigenous medicinal practices preserve, elevate, and honor ancestral land, culture, flora, and ways of living. She challenges the reader to critically think about the knowledge Indigenous communities possess and how this could aid in healing on a physical and spiritual level.
Every year, the streets of Bermuda fill with the sweet dance of the gombeys—folk dancers who have come to symbolize Black resistance, identity, and heritage. Graduate researcher Stephanie Gibson reflects on the performance of the gombeys, and the ways they take up physical, public space as an act of political subversion and joy. The gombey is both a Black tradition and a moving example of performance-as-political strategy, challenging the ghosts of colonial regimes that once regulated Black Bermudian bodies through music and dance.
Monument Lab announces a transformative $4 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The grant, entitled Beyond the Pedestal: Tracing and Transforming America’s Monuments, will support the production of a definitive audit of the nation’s monuments; the opening of ten Monument Lab field research offices through $1 million of subgrants in 2021; and capacity for Monument Lab to hire its first full-time staff and develop significant art and justice initiatives.
Staying Power is a participatory art and history exhibition hosted by The Village of Arts and Humanities, Monument Lab, and residents of the Fairhill-Hartranft neighborhood of North Central Philadelphia that seeks to respond to central questions of What is staying power in this neighborhood? What is staying power in a city that is rapidly changing? The collaborative project will include outdoor monumental sculpture, indoor installations, storefront activations, and performances in spring 2021. Yet, the pandemic and a season of uprising and reckoning have pushed Monument Lab and its collaborators to both dig deeper and pivot into our practice.
2020 Fellow Alisha B. Wormsley reflects on her project There Are Black People in the Future, which addresses systemic oppression of Black communities through space and time by reassuring the presence of Black bodies. For Wormsley, what began as an experimental film and archival project in 2012 has resulted in a phrase that has been used widely in protest, critical art theory, essays, song, testimony and collective dreaming. Her ever evolving work and the reactions it elicit are a reminder that there is not only a need for Black people to claim their place in the past and present, but also the future.
Visual artist Christopher Nelson Obuh reflects on the how statues on pedestals—practices of memorialization that were brought by European colonizers—live in cities throughout Africa. Through the medium of photographic documentation, Obuh tracks the ways that public spaces in Lagos, Bamako, Dakar, and Abidjan remember people and events through relatively new modes of commemoration in order to open up meaningful dialogue around the lingering effects of colonial presence throughout the continent.