Remembrance as Resistance: Preserving Black Narratives in Atlanta’s historic Oakland Cemetery honors the over 800 unmarked graves within the African American Burial Grounds through the multimedia installation of a Ring Shout.
The Ring Shout is a traditional African American worship and gathering practice with origins in West African ritual and ceremony. The Ring Shout was reborn during enslavement in the American South in resistance to laws which prohibited those enslaved from gathering, except for worship, and forbid any form of cultural expression, including drumming. These laws were imposed in an effort to systematically dismantle communication, and ultimately community.
In response, those enslaved created Praise Houses—small usually wooden structures (barns or shacks) used for worship throughout the Southeast. As an act of resistance, congregants would gather in circle to stomp or shout (full body rhythmic movement) upon the wooden floors, ultimately creating a communal drum—secretly preserving their cultural rituals and collective prayers and traditions. These small hidden worship spaces are thought to be precursors to the first Black churches in the Western world.
Remembrance as Resistance celebrates the endurance of these traditions in contemporary dance, music, and spoken word as testament to the resilience of a people. The project will open on Juneteenth, which celebrates the emancipation of those who were enslaved in the United States, and will run through July 11, 2021.
While creating this work Minniefield was an artist in residence at Emory University and worked with the Langmuir Collection at the Stuart A Rose Library. Images from their acclaimed African American archive appear in the video installation.
Photo: Julie Yarbrough Photography
Experience a virtual tour of the exhibition and Oakland Cemetery as a location. Here you will find background information, details on the Historic African American Burial Grounds, and much more.
About the Artist
The work of artist-activist, Charmaine Minniefield preserves Black narratives as a radical act of social justice. Firmly rooted in womanist social theory and ancestral veneration, her work draws from indigenous traditions as seen throughout Africa and the Diaspora, to explore African and African-American history, memory, and ritual as an intentional push back against erasure. Her creative practice is community-based as her research and resulting bodies of work often draw from the physical archives as she excavates the stories of African-American women-led resistance and spirituality and power.
Minniefield’s recent public works, which include projection mapping and site-specific installation, insight dialogue around race, class, and power. Through interdisciplinary collaboration, she incorporates other art forms to virtually bridge the past to the present. Recent projects include the mounting of “Remembrance as Resistance” during the 2018 Symposium on Race and Reconciliation presented by her alma mater, Agnes Scott College, which opened with the removal of two Confederate monuments from campus grounds and closed with the work as backdrop for the closing talk by Alice Walker on art and activism.
Minniefield’s work is featured in a number of public and private collections, and as a muralist, her walls can be seen throughout the City of Atlanta and beyond. She was honored by Mercedes Benz as a part of their Greatness Lives Here campaign. She is featured in the 2020 US Census commercial with her recent mural in Brooklyn depicting women who shaped the future. Minniefield recently served as the Stuart A. Rose Library artist-in-residence at Emory through a collaboration with Flux Projects.