Vivien Fryd, professor of history of art, delivered a paper addressing “Kara Walker’s About the Title: Anti-Euro-American Colonialism and Imperialism” in the Popular Art, Architecture, and Design area of the Popular Culture Association Conference held in late March in Seattle, WA.
Kara Walker’s About the title—I had wanted to title this “sketch after my Mississippi youth” or “the excavation” as I pictured it a sort of introduction to the panorama to come. However the image, which is partly borrowed, is of an Indian mound–painted by Mr. J. Egan in 1850 is meant to remind the dear viewer of another place altogether, from which we suckle life. Perhaps my rendering is too subtle . . . . (2002) expands the scope of her condemnation of racial politics in the United States, which usually refers to the perversity of slavery in the pre-Civil War antebellum past and its effect on the present, and also implicates the mistreatment of Indian remains.
Walker depicts a nineteenth-century excavation of an Indian mound appropriated from John J. Egan’s multi-paneled Panorama of the Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley (1850). She broadened her powerful critique of the transnational slave trade, southern slavery, and post-Civil War racism to also include post-colonialist discourse— Euro-American colonialism and imperialism, which is referenced in her enormous drawing. About the title embodies anti-colonial discourse as an extension of her better known anti-racist discourse; and it both extends and complicates Walker’s oeuvre to include references to the problematic and forced contributions of African slaves to the traumas experienced by native peoples. In this work, she collapses past and present, textual and visual, the fictional and actual to expose the past wrongs against African Americans and Indians as a “rememory.”