Angel Repast for Martyrs & Heroes: FoodActs & Textiles Inspired by Black Funerary Practice
Session type: 

This project is designed and executed as a collaborative art and active citizenship FoodAct. A meal created from foodstuffs/dishes that four individuals/archetypes enjoyed eating/cooking was made and shared with four elders/archetypes in my community, along with a series of tea towels designed and collaboratively made in conversation and dispute with the history of derogatory iconography as culinary cultural texts. Within the tradition of African American funerary protocols, a repast is a culturally resonant lieux de memoire. A repast is a meal consumed by a group with a shared social location. Symbolically this commensal moment is often held to honor individuals, communities, or important events transforming the simple act of ingestion to one where favored foods of the dead and/or their community are prepared to memorialize their legacy as an embodied FoodAct. By consuming foods that refer to individuals within the social group metaphorically the guests consume the spirit of that person thereby recalling their contribution to the community as a shared public act. Similarly when consecrated as an act of memorialization for the deceased, repasts as an acknowledgment of the dead in a public sphere—also allows the living to exist without the need to exert effort as they grieve and appreciate the life that now exists as memory. Repast in an Afro-Diaspora context, where honoring our departed elders and ever-present ancestors necessitates an engagement with traditional African religious dogma. The “repast meal” was made in homage to the lives of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and the maiming of Jacob Blake, and the elders are artists/educators of racial identity politics. Food, cooking, textiles, and discourse were harnessed as lenses to see these individuals in community with a set of traditions steeped in memory and lived experiences that reveal their humanity as individuals and members of a collectivity.

The Angel Repast also includes the production of a set of ceremonial tea towels referencing the lives of these four individuals. Each towel has similar and unique components. African trained-Lowcountry indigo artist, Arianne King Comer has dyed each of the tea towels as the semiotics of plantocracy and African aesthetics. Women from the Harlem Needle Arts have hand-embroidered on each towel to reflect textile, needlework, and quilting traditions reflective of African American material culture, creativity, aesthetics, and subsistence living. Each towel is printed with quotes reflecting the foods or meals that each of the honorees enjoyed cooking or eating.  One towel reflective of each individual will be presented to the four Harlem elders, Charles Daniel Dawson, Marie Dutton Brown, John Dowell, and John Pinderhughes who have each received a complete meal as a remembrance and memorial to the lives of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Jacob Blake. The towel designs are based on revisiting and creating a corrective for historical early twentieth precedents where tea towels were created as a set of seven each having the day of the week embroidered or printed on it, and frequently a pejorative image of Black women and children.

Current contributors: 
Scott Alves Barton
Panel contact: