Remembering Slavery in New York: A Special Installation
In February I visited the New York Historical Society, a place that is becoming my second home.
At the entrance were a couple of wire sculptures. They were empty looking. Sculptures one would see and not really see.
The posting told me what the sculptures represented.
In the 17th Century, the Dutch West India Company brought over enslaved Africans to the island of Mannahatta (the term used for Manhattan by local Native Americans) to begin the work of building a settlement. Many ships followed and a city took shaped as their requirement was to cut down and rid the space of trees and stones. In its place they built public buildings.
Each of these wire sculptures commemorates the first enslaved Africans brought to New Amsterdam in the 1620’s…The brutal system survived in the United States until 1865, when it was finally destroyed by the Union victory and the thirteenth Amendment. 2019 seems like a fitting time to stop and remember. This year marks the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans to our shores.
The sculptures by Derrick Fraser are thought provoking and made of only wire. They are sturdy and strong yet airy and made with wire. Fraser used this medium in memory of the fundamentals of the slave. Sturdy, strong people yet bent and out of shape. Bent until thrown in unmarked graves. Their bones are still buried without tombs and markings near the places they worked. It’s like their spirits are still there lingering, airy, sturdy and strong.