Connect to history: go back to go forward with Hadiya Williams

by | Humans

Photo Credit: Shantrelle P. Lewis

When Hadiya Williams answers the question “Where are you from?,” she can tell you that she was born and raised in Washington DC, “…by way of Johnston County, North Carolina, by way of the Bamileke people of Cameroon.”

She is in the process of doing her genealogy work. Paying respects to the ones who have gone before us and forged the possibilities we create today. Sometimes, you have to look back to go forward.

This thought led Hadiya to create the art installation that she is most proud of presently—Makers in the Mansion at Woodlawn Pope-Leighey House in Mt. Vernon, VA.

“I was invited to be part of an exhibition where 5 Black artists created installations in one of the rooms of the former plantation of George and Martha Washington’s daughter, Eleanor Parke Custis.

I brought in my friend, Risikat Okedeyi, to help with the concepting and ideation because I wanted to make sure I properly honored this space and those formerly enslaved people. The Black women and men that served in the house. Those who were only documented by their first names. I was given the dining room, so we created a space that was meant to serve them —not the other way around.

There was a Yoruba Egungun portal upon entry that let you know that you were crossing over into a sacred space. That dining room became a living altar room.

The table was set with my hand-built ceramic pieces, table linens, hand-painted bowls, etc. The placecards and menus were a timeline with dates and information of what was happening on that Plantation juxtaposed with what was happening in the country regarding slavery.

This room sparked so much emotion from visitors who experienced it. It brought tears and joy and some anger. It was one of the most memorable and transformative collaborations/projects that I’ve done to date.”

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