I am standing in front of Simone Leigh’s Large Jug in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
It is included in an exhibition entitled, “Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina”.
This exhibition opens up a different jug of worms. While most slave narratives of 19th Century speak about the Atlantic Slave trade and the presence of Africans in the cotton fields, viewing Hear Me Now makes the viewer think, well, what else did Africans / African Americans contribute too? What other narratives are they apart of that we know very little to nothing about? It remind us that the slave was not confined or small at all, instead, he had a large presence and was in every walk of life.
While the entire story is told from many view points, the one artist that walks away with you is Dave. Mr. Dave Drake. He found a way to live on forever through his pottery by using the very thing that could have gotten him killed, visual literacy.
Above to the left is the jug that I couldn’t stop circling around. It reads:
nineteen days before Christmas- Eve- Lots of people after its over, how they will greave,
I wonder…. how in the world did he get away with a quote like that? He seemed to share the same status as Fredrick Douglass; yet, he was enslaved!
Douglass escape slavery in 1881. Drake’s pottery was issued in 1858. This means that way before Frederick Douglass wrote his speech, ‘What, to the slave, is the fourth of July‘? Drake was already addressing the same topic throughout his pottery.
Lesson plan idea: Visit exhibit with students and allow them to write ‘what if’ stories for Dave. Allow them to create stories to fill in some of the missing pieces of Dave’s story that we do not know…