Aliyah Bonnette
My work is heavily influenced by my relationships with my late grandmothers, my ancestors, or my ‘Kindred’ as I call them. I discovered quilting three years ago at age twenty after learning that quilting may have been used in the underground railroad to aid slaves to freedom. When I first told my grandfather about my sewing, I learned he had quilts and fabric from my late grandmother after she passed away. She was a quilter in the 1970s while living in Georgia and learned to sew by watching her own mother. A few days later, my mother and I drove to Georgia and were surprised to find barrels full of my grandmother’s unfinished quilts as well as used and unused fabrics. I was stunned. It was a sign that my grandmothers were alive within me, guiding me all along. Over time, I have taught myself a process of improvisational quilting to physically connect to my grandmother and the practices of my women ancestors. By incorporating the very fabrics and unfinished quilts she touched and sewed herself, my practice becomes a space to stitch together the stories and memories of black women across generations. My work tells the story of a black woman’s journey to find herself. My figures are representations of me and the women around me. Through them, I construct stories of our own blackness, femininity and sexuality beyond the violence and hyper sexualization that we face as Black women in a colonized world. My Kindred who have lived through slavery and Jim Crow directly aid me in the process of making while simultaneously guiding me on my own path of womanhood. The figures within my work are women living in comfortable environments where they may reveal their authentic self. They are Black women, often partially or fully nude, who take ownership of their bodies and refuse to be controlled by imposed standards of race, gender or sexuality. Guided by the Kindred, both myself and my figures may find our paths to our true selves, imagining who we may have been without the interference of colonization.

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