D̶r̶a̶n̶a̶ for what did she call herself?
This is a reflection commissioned by the Henry Art Gallery for their Viewpoints series in response to Carrie Mae Weems "untitled" from the Sea Island Series.
Drana, Country Born, Daughter of Jack, Guinea. If we take the label given to her by the photographer commissioned by a paleontologist and a creationist we will only know what the institution of slavery would have us know. Drana, the name stripped of the culture of her father who we know is from Guinea, and who has been named Jack. Country born, as in on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, between the land of her father’s birth and the land in which she was born enslaved. Daughter of Jack, Guinea, but who is her mother? The absence of her mother is another marker of the institution: the inability for enslaved women to mother the children to which they gave birth. Enslaved women who gave birth would be expected to wet nurse their white charges and otherwise continue to be as productive as they were prior to their enslavement.
Carrie Mae Weems has us look at her again:
The One with eyes that look back at your looking, not asking to be recognized as human but owning the fact of her humanity. She, a woman of African descent who must look back at a gaze that wishes to dehumanize. She, who in each decade to come would have another name, another photograph, another stereotype, another meme. The One, whose image proliferates without her consent and its story, without her signature. The One, whose gaze refracts that of your desires, even your desire for distance from her condition. D̶r̶a̶n̶a̶, for what did she call herself?