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Story and Symbol: Faith Ringgold and Hank Willis Thomas'

For those of us whose histories are interrupted, transformed, lost, and remade through the legacies of violence, slavery, and colonialism, home is often a loaded notion. Approaching the concept itself can be an exhausting exercise, one sprawling with desire or desperation. In Freedom is Going Home, Faith Ringgold and Hank Willis Thomas cultivate an intergenerational conversation that explores shared Black experiences, global Black politics, and ideas of home. Story and symbol work to facilitate the specific and the abstract, or imagined, connections between the Black American diaspora and South Africa.

Ringgold, a widely celebrated multidisciplinary artist from New York City best known for her multimedia quilt works and paintings, served as an inspiration for Thomas:

“Faith’s quilts, which are story quilts really, were some of the first artworks that I had an opportunity to engage with and to think about how art can be used to preserve memory, to open ideas, and create nostalgia, but also to be beautiful and carry the path forward.

When I think about the fact that she’s been working for over a half-century, I really am inspired that things that I’m making now or have made in the past might have even more potency, meaning, and relevance in the future.”

The second room of the exhibition puts this inspiration on display, where three of Thomas’s quilt works tell a story of Pan-African symbolism. These works are similar in scale to Ringgold’s quilts, and they are composed of various African flags. The pieces are bright, kaleidoscopic. The titles of the pieces borrow from excerpts of speeches from Pan-African leaders and thinkers, such as Haile Selassie’s Let us demand more of ourselves than we believe we possess or Thomas Sankara’s We must dare to invent the future.

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