The term “Confederate monument” often conjures up images of white army generals on horseback, leading the south into battle.
The Blank Slate Palimpsest Monument (“Blank Slate”) is an awe striking, allegorical deconstruction of that notion, challenging the onlooker to seek a deeper understanding of the “African American” experience before, during and after the American Civil War (1861-1865).
There are ‘problematic narratives’ that do not do justice to the African American experience of the confederate war in America.
The Blank Slate Monument aims to change that narrative.
- Interrogating the non-inclusive commemoration of events surrounding the Civil War
- Make the monument serve as the very vehicle for nonviolent protest of confederate memorials and spaces which are insensitive to the African American experience and contributions
- Contribute to dialogues, especially amongst American citizens whether black, white or any other race
- Allow monument to serve as an intervention to white supremacy spaces and/or un-commemorated spaces associated with African American heroism, suffering and contribution to nation building
Symbolism of the Monument
Pedestal – To put someone or something on a Pedestal is to place them above. It is to behave as if one person is more important than another. The artist characterizes the fact that African Americans are struggling to mount a base to be on the same level as the rest of American Heroes.
The Memory Jug
An American folk-art form that memorializes the dead. It is made up of a drinking jug or vessel riddled with historic and personal items. It has deep African roots and is a means of paying homage to a lot of groups whose sculptures cannot be added to the collection. Their various symbols are embossed on the memory jug.
The Slave Ancestor
His body is closest to the ground and both his hands and feet are bound. His bound hands support the struggling black union martyr and his face supports the feet of the soldier as well. He has no rights at all, thus his face is practically in the ground, yet he struggles to help those above him whom he cannot even see with his eyes. Viewers may be moved by his facial expression and his face on the bare ground be it concrete, grass or dirt. He will be in loins cloth and bound in chains.
The Lynched Union Soldier Martyr
An unknown Union army soldier with a noose around his neck; He struggles to keep an American flag up even as he supports the activist mother. He also carries a memory jug.
The Struggling Mother Activist
Responsible for mending broken men and giving hope to children challenged with hopelessness. The mother is not only responsible for birthing the next generation, but she also has to support the unknown martyr whilst still raising a baby. She represents contemporary struggles in the freedom tradition.
Representing the future generation, her face pressed against the mother’s back will mimic the way the enslaved ancestor’s face is pressed against the ground. Justifying the reason why her mother is protesting.
Perhaps the most important symbol, the placard represents and becomes the voice of the ordinary people. It is the medium which allows the ordinary person to voice their views on all issues concerning black history, confederate monuments and the sculpture itself.
A r t i s t S t a t e m e n t
The placard is not just a symbol but it is literally the voice of the people. I left it blank because a monumental few words from one artist will not be enough to express the thoughts and emotions of millions of people. An artist has no right to play with idealistic symbolism and think that every thing will be ok. It is blank because I hope participants will fill it with their own words and emotions.
The blank slate, however does not stand in a vacuum. The placard and various words, hashtags, opinions come from the the freedom tradition that was created ever since enslaved Africans set foot in the United States of America and the world away from wherever they called home. A tradition expressed through hunger strikes, acts of defiance and civil rights movements. It is my belief that when participants write down their thoughts on the placards, a palimpsest of the freedom tradition shines through and that is when the heroes of America are revealed.
– Kwame Akoto-Bamfo