Another painting that I just extracted from my garage is this dark work.
There is an interesting story behind it.
In the year 2000 or 2001, the British Museum invited me to give a lecture as part of the ceremonies held in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and also to mark the completion of the Great Court built as an extension of the main museum building. They wanted me to address the body as my topic.
Well, I’m not a black woman, therefore I couldn’t claim any expertise on that subject. But as a person who came out of the body of the black woman, a body that without which I wouldn’t be in existence, I decided to celebrate that unique physiology.
But I also realize that this is a highly-contested body.
The center of that body is the vagina, historically the most quartered detail of that anatomy.
Part of the abuse of the black female genitalia is the socially-apportioned right to expose it, cut it, sew it up, distort it, elongate it, fracture it and buy it, toward the purpose of alienating it from its rightful owner, to control and enjoy it by others.
In my lecture, I elaborated on the process of the distortion of that central organ to make it less enjoyable for the natural owner, in several painful procedures including removing its crown, the clitoris.
The audience, mostly women, gave me a standing ovation at the conclusion of the lecture.
I was happy with myself.
A number of male friends resident in London had organized a party for me, and after the lecture, we piled into some vehicles and went to the venue of the party. It was an all-men party.
It started really well. Then as we began to drink, it took a bad turn. One of my friends said, “But, Moyo, that lecture you gave was wrong. You made it look like black women must enjoy sex.”
“I made the same observation,” another friend contributed. “Enjoyment is totally secondary to sex. The idea of sex in Africa is to have children. Alas, Moyo, you have become a white man.”
They all agreed with the speakers.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. First, the focus of the lecture was not on the enjoyment of sex for women. Second, even if it were the focus, what would be wrong in that proposition.
I decided that I was alone. It was impossible to defend myself. I, therefore, kept quiet.
But when I returned to Denver, Colorado, where I was living then, I went straight to my studio. I spent all my anger on a painting I was working on by splashing paint all over it as I raged. When I was relieved, I added some figures to the composition, with a black woman’s body in the center, holding a fish (Ẹja) in one hand, and a crab (Akàn) in the other, in a cruciform split. The crab and the fish are symbols of good or bad respectively in Yoruba cosmology.
The result of that rage is this dusk painting.
Interested in some of my published works?