Under the looming threat of death, how might we inspire life? Through what mechanisms could we resist the
psychological violence and despair inspired by the threat of violence while at the same time usher in hope?
In September 2019, the Sonja Haynes Stone Center will host DO or DIE: Affect, Ritual Resistance. This mixed media exhibition by award-winning visual artist Fahamu Pecou seeks to elevate and recontextualize Black life and death by reframing our view. Pecou integrates West African spiritual traditions with African cultural retentions in hip-hop and the philosophy of “Negritude” to explore Black existence. Pecou writes: “In my work, hip-hip (body), Negritude (mind), and Ifa (spirit) combine to tell a story of a spirit’s journey and offer a proposal for holistic rejuvenation. DO or DIE is not a story of death, but one of life.” Today’s media is flooded with images of Black suffering and oppression. From slavery to Jim Crow to mass incarceration, the “spectacle of death” often weighs heavily on our minds. Pecou’s exhibition takes Yoruba/Ifa ritual traditions and creates intersectionality with the political and societal fascination with the violence against Black male bodies. Through this connection, he affirms life and creates a spirit of justice to show strength for a community constantly in pain.
From cowry shells to hoodies, DO or DIE combines the old and the new. It features paintings, photographs, and a multimedia costume that evokes the Egungun tradition from Yoruba culture. The exhibition highlights the necessity of a Black identity linked to something other than death or trauma by reclaiming African rituals and imagery. It turns tragedy to triumph and offers resistance and hope in the face of oppression.
This exhibition is on loan from the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston. It will be on display in the Robert and Sallie Brown Gallery and Museum at the Stone Center from September 19-November 21, 2019. A public opening reception will take place Thursday, September 19th at 7PM. For more information, contact the Stone Center at (919)962-9001 or email stonecenter.unc.edu.
Fahamu Pecou’s DO or DIE: Affect, Ritual, Resistance has been organized by the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston, in collaboration with the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University.