Cheers to the Quilter’s Hall of Fame for selecting Carolyn Mazloomi as the 2016 inductee. When I went down to Marion for a walk-thru of her art quilts what I saw and felt looking at her quilts was nothing short of amazing: Amazing because of the techniques she used and even more amazing the power behind the images. Every quilt created in black and white are powerful in their simplicity. Every quilt includes an image of the sun: shining light on both the injustices of the world that some would prefer remain hidden and shining light on strong capable vibrant women who in ordinary ways impact the world.
The quilt Strange Fruit hit close to home as it depicts the lynchings of African Americans while white hooded clansman look on. In the background Billie Holiday is singing. Carolyn relates how Billie used to close out her sets singing the song “Strange Fruit”. I discovered the song, originally the poem Bitter Fruit, was written by Jewish-American school teacher Abel Meerpol in the late 1930s. Meerpol was very disturbed by racism in America directed toward African Americans. He was haunted by a shocking photograph of the lynching of two black men on August 7, 1930 in Marion, Indiana and was inspired to set his poem to music. He renamed it Strange Fruit and the song has been called America’s original protest song.
Southern trees bear a strange fruit, Blood on the leave and blood on the root, Black body swinging in the Southern breeze, Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Another quilt in the exhibit is In the spirit of forgiveness created with the same techniques. Just looking at the quilt one is reminded of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, but this quilt depicts a tragic period of history and the reconciliation that followed it.
The information accompanying the quilt relates how Adriaan Johannes Vlok was Minister of Law and Order in South Africa from 1986 to 1991 during the final years of the apartheid era. He helped to plan and implement the deaths of thousands of anti-apartheid activists. In 1999 Vlok became a pariah among white South Africans when he became the only minister to appear before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to admit committing crimes against blacks. He was granted amnesty by the Commission which was set up to help the nation come to terms with its past. Bishop Desmond Tutu is a member of the commission. As atonement for his despicable acts, Vlok washed the feet of ten black South African women –mothers whose young sons were brutally murdered by the police under his watch. To wash the feet of another human being is one of the most humbling things one can ever do. The quilt depicts the feet washing as Bishop Tutu looks on. On October 2nd, Carolyn will be in South Africa for the opening of the Tutu Museum where she will present this quilt to the Bishop.
To learn more about Carolyn’s quilts and the Women of Color Quilters Network go to: carolynlmazloomi.com/
Lois Levihn is the owner of Born Again Quilts located at 4005 South Wayne Ave. Contact her at www.bornagainquilts.com.