Places for the Spirit is a stunning collection of over 80 documentary photographs of African American folk gardens -- and their creators -- in the Deep South (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina). These landscapes have a unique historical significance due to the design elements and spiritual meanings that have been traced to the yards and gardens of American slaves and further back to their prior African heritage. These deceptively casual or whimsical foliage arrangements are subtle and symbolic reminders of the divine in everyday life, the cycles of nature, and implied right and wrong ways to live. In the spirit of "outsider" art traditions, blues musical roots, and other such folk manifestations, these gardens have a unique aesthetic and cultural significance. Over 20 years in the making, this is the first collection of fine art photography to document this subject and, as such, it adds greatly to our understanding and appreciation of this disappearing element of African American culture.
In this book the authors combine oral testimony, firsthand documentation of sites and artworks, insightful analysis, and over two hundred photographs to explore African American devotional arts centered in homes and domestic landscapes. Focusing primarily, though not exclusively, on the southeastern United States, the book examines works ranging from James Hampton's well-known Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly (now part of the Smithsonian collection), to several elaborately decorated yards and gardens, to smaller-scale acts of commemoration, protection, and witness that African Americans have created in and near their homes.
This book is the first extensive survey of African-American gardening traditions in the rural South. Richard Westmacott has recovered valuable data for those interested in African-American material culture and the history of vernacular gardens by creating measured drawings and physical inventories of African-American gardens in three geographic areas: the low country of South Carolina, the southern piedmont of Georgia, and the black belt of Alabama. The descriptions are enhanced by the author's personal interviews with the gardeners, in which the aesthetic qualities, designs, and purposes of their yards and gardens are documented.
The concept of African American home ground knits together diverse aspects of the American landscape, from elite suburbs and tower apartments to the old homeplaces of the countryside, to the tabletop array of family photos beside the bed of a housebound elder. This fascinating volume focuses on ways African Americans have invested actual and symbolic landscapes with signifigance, gained the means to acquire property, and brought new insight to the interpretation of contemporary, historical, and archaelogical sites. Keep Your Head to the Sky demonstrates how visions of home, past and present, have helped to shape African Americans' sense of place, often under extremely hostile conditions.
This landmark book shows how five African civilizations—Yoruba, Kongo, Ejagham, Mande and Cross River—have informed and are reflected in the aesthetic, social and metaphysical traditions (music, sculpture, textiles, architecture, religion, idiogrammatic writing) of black people in the United States, Cuba, Haiti, Trinidad, Mexico, Brazil and other places in the New World.