Collaboration Not Exploitation

We headed to the Souls Grown Deep Exhibition to learn more about The Quilt Makers Of Gee’s Bend and their collaboration with Marfa Stance And The Royal Academy

By Hannah Connolly

19 April 2023

ashion label Marfa Stance continues their collaboration with the exceptional women artists of the Gee’s Bend Quilt Maker’s community in tandem with the Royal Academy and their exhibition Souls Grown Deep. Featuring more than 35 artists to showcase unique African American artistic traditions and methods of visual storytelling.

From the early twentieth century to the present day, the women of Gee’s Bend–a small, remote, Black community in Alabama, have been creating hand-stitched, geometric quiltworks - developing a singular craft into an internationally recognised artform passed down through the generations.

What initially began as a decorative yet functional practice became so much more following the visit of Martin Luther King Jr to the local baptist church in the 1960s, right at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Following on from this the community of Gee’s Bend came together with a bigger neighboring town of Rehoboth to form the Freedom Quilting Bee, a workers co-op that provided economic opportunity and political empowerment – raising the national awareness of the artform.

Beginning with basic forms, the quilts follow the “my way” approach, which sees the maker taking on unexpected or abstract patterns using varying colours and textures. To this day the women of Gee’s Bend continue in their art and are collaborating with fashion label Mafa Stance.

Mafa Stance is the sustainability driven womenswear label that is spearheading change within the industry, created by Founder Georgia Dant in 2019 and renowned for its inimitable outerwear made with responsibility sourced, recycled materials.

Now in tandem Souls Grown Deep Exhibition, alongside with the Royal Academy of Arts and the Quilt Makers of Gee’s Bend, this powerhouse trio is shining the light on a cohort of exceptional women artists through the medium of wearable and collectable artworks.

The exhibit presents the work of Black artists spanning the 19th Century to the present day. Representing a group of painters, sculptors, and makers from the American South.

These are the careers and stories of artists whose works are routed in local communities big and small, from South Carolina to the Mississippi River Delta; in remote communities like Gee’s Bend to urban sprawls like Atlanta.

A collection of works that confront the history of African Americans as well depicting the realities of economic inequity, social marginalization and racial conflict. These artists, each in their own way, drawing inspiration from the everyday, the environment, historical and current events, religion, music and African traditions.

Spanning across three rooms, the works range from the Three-Way Bicycle by Charlie Lucas and Thornton Dial's Stars of Everything. Also on display is the work of some of The Quilt Makers of Gee’s Bend from the 1930s to 2021.

Through a partnership with Nest, a non-profit organisation supporting responsible and creative engagement with artists around the world, 18 of these quiltmakers have joined forces with Marfa Stance and the RA to work on a project that monetises and celebrates this artform on the global stage with every single piece baring the makers moniker.

The resulting collection features both quilts and wearable pieces as well as framed miniature quilts. Made using offcuts of cashmere, wool and fly-weight cottons supplied by Marfa Stance’s production the traditional geometric rhythm of the Gee’s Bend Quilters is met with Marfa Stance signatures like the “onion stitch” – the result is wearable art.

See the full collection here and learn more here..

The Souls Grown Deep Exhibition is open now, find your tickets here.

The Short Stack

We headed to the Souls Grown Deep Exhibition to learn more about the exceptional women artisans of The American South and their collaboration with sustainability champions Marfa Stance

By Hannah Connolly

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