America celebrates its third year of Juneteenth honoring “the emancipation of enslaved African Americans.” Unfortunately, African Americans are still enduring racism and discrimination all over the world. In England, on May 15, 2023, a 10-foot-tall bronze sculpture titled Seated, which depicts a Black woman sitting down, was vandalized. The face of the sculpture was horrifically painted white. Reporters on ArtReview have written the sculpture was “defaced.” Alex Greenberger, a reporter for Art News, wrote how Seated was a public sculpture outside “the De la Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea, a town on the coast of East Sussex.” It is unknown who committed this shocking and barbaric act, but the artist and the public are appalled.
Seated (2022) was completed by Tschabalala Self, an American-based artist from Harlem, New York. Funded by Avant Art in England, Seated became Self’s first public sculpture. According to ArtReview, “Seated was initially unveiled at King’s Cross in London, but moved to its current temporary location at the De la Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea.” As an artist, Self is known for exploring race and gender, specifically of Black women and their bodies, within her artwork. Through Seated, Self does so by revealing a Black woman wearing a yellow dress, boots, hat, and gloves, while sitting in a green chair. On BBC News, reporter Chrissie Reidy says, “The sculpture is of a Black woman looking out into the sea contemplating life.” Just by sitting by the ocean, beautiful and strong, she’s empowering voices and narratives of the African diaspora.
Self, being a woman of color herself, addressed the vandalism as an act of racism. On May 21, 2023, she wrote on Instagram, “Despite my disappointment I am not surprised as Black and Female—and especially because Black Female bodies are often targets for abuse. Seated proudly represents the beauty of both blackness and femininity, and for these very reasons she has been harmed: covered by her assailant with white spray paint in a futile attempt to erase her color and, in my mind, her strength.” Self isn’t shocked by what happened to Seated. The vandalism has oppressed those voices once more. Thus, the abuse and discrimination of race continue for the African diaspora.
Like Self, the people of Bexhill-on-Sea were also devastated by this loathsome disfiguration. ArtReview and Art News have both reported that over 200 residents helped restore Seated to its original form. Reidy acknowledged the community’s help and assistance as “an act of peaceful resistance.” Support from a community of people of all colors, who are loving and accepting, goes a long way, especially when they are outraged by someone who has defaced Self’s sculpture. Fortunately, Seated was placed back on display for the public on June 3, 2023. It’ll remain on display until October 29, 2023. Nevertheless, on BBC News, Reidy said how Seated is “a strong woman seated with confidence who has every right to be here.” And yes she does.
On the morning of June 7, 2023, Self honored the community of Bexhill-on-Sea on Instagram. She wrote,
“Thank you to the hundreds of individuals in Bexhill who worked together to repair Seated (2022). You all will forever be part of the artwork for your hands have aided in her renewal. I truly enjoyed my visit and meeting many of you! Seated can now continue to be enjoyed by the community for the remainder of her stay.”
Seated has had a miraculous journey, but the vandalism is still an act of discrimination against the Black community. Why are we still having issues with vandalism and racism? Why can’t we honor other voices? The bottom line is, we live in a world of diversity in race and gender. Rather than oppressing voices and people, we should be celebrating and honoring them. How else can a community come together?
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