Punishment Mask Fabricated by Ernie Ahrens & Raw Mississippi Cotton, at the Community Folk Art Center Exhibition "The Whipping Post" (Syracuse, NY)
"The Whipping Post began as a series dedicated to understanding how white culture has treated people of color. I now see these photographs as the visual equivalent of the Ghanaian word 'Sankofa,' which in the Akan language means, 'We must go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward; so we understand why and how we came to be who we are today.' " -- From photographer Brantley Carroll's artist's statement.
For details and video about the Syracuse Community Folk Art Center exhibit "The Whipping Post," see:
For nineteenth century images of punishment masks, see:
But in remembering the atrocities and lasting legacy of slavery we should beware of focusing only on objects. To quote Marcus Wood's Blind Memory: Visual Representations of Slavery in England and America, (p. 223): "Once the object of torture has gained such primacy the slave body is no longer necessary in order to remember, or to pretend to remember, slavery." Woods captures what is so powerful in Brantley Carroll's work, and what is so clearly absent from the pictures (like the one here) that I took of the objects and artifacts displayed alongside Carroll's photographic portraits in his exhibit.
As Dr. Kheli R. Willetts put it in his CFAC Academic Director's Statement on p. 1 of the exhibit catalog, "By reinterpreting the imagery of slave culture through the faces and bodies of artists, actors, and Syracuse city residents, Carroll has interwoven the past with the present. It is through the recognition of the sitters, we move in closer to the photographs, simultaneously allowing us to reconnect with the past."
In other words ... go see the exhibit!