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Masqueraders Are the Ancestors of Protestors

  • Location:
    The IMC Lab + Gallery, 56 W 22nd St, 6th Floor, New York, Manhattan, New York, 10010, US

"Masqueraders Are the Ancestors of Protestors: A Celebration of the Mask as a Tool of Social Change"
The Fourth Juneteenth Jubilee Exhibit, Presented by SOL’SAX and The IMC Lab + Gallery

On View May 2 - June 27

A multimedia exhibition celebrating the tradition of honored reverence through masking with works by Saya Woolfalk, Firelei Báez, and SOL’SAX. Works made in collaboration with James Tunick integrate eye tracking, motion tracking, and augmented reality sculpture with projection mapping.

Press Release:
SOL’SAX organizes Jubilees every year to celebrate Juneteenth, an American holiday commemorating the liberation of the last slaves in Texas on June 19th 1865. Each year the Jubilee focuses on a specific cultural product that has been used by culture soldiers to create social freedom.

Masking is a cultural force around the world. The masking strategy celebrated in this exhibit stands in stark contrast to masking traditions that use mimicry and satire to ridicule the other by appropriating their identity. In many animist traditions, masks are more than a tool of anonymity to attack outsiders. They are visual aids to honor Ancestors. Most masquerade traditions of West and Central Africa are focused on defining and redefining their own identity rather than ridiculing or dismissing "the other".

This exhibition explores masquerade traditions that celebrate a deep reverence of self and acknowledges the self as an ancestral construction. Saya Woolfalk has mined ancestral masquerade traditions from around the world, fusing eclectic cultural references by using her personal aesthetic sense as glue. Her ongoing body of work featuring female characters called the “Empathetics” uses empathy as a tool to heal the pain of Colonial globalization, European supremacy and patriarchy. Firelei Báez directs her transformative aesthetic to riff on the Tignon headdress tradition of New Orleans. She celebrates this battle proven cultural soldier strategy of transforming insults into honor with this specific historical reference of cultural resistance. SOL’SAX uses masks that are hybrids of the traditional Dogon ancestral masks of West Africa and the contemporary protest sign to celebrate the protestors of the Civil Rights movement and the nonviolent cultural tools they used with roots in the masquerade traditions of Sub-Saharan Africa. There will also be a performance and video art series where artists Derrick Adams, Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow, Zachary Fabri, Kambui Olujimi and many more will present work featuring masking or the appropriation of a persona. On Juneteenth (June 19th) there will be a Jubilee Masquerade where attendees will be encouraged to bring their own mask.