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From the Deep: Ayana V. Jackson’s Immersive Aquatopia Exhibition Honors Survivors and Envisions a Resilient Future

The National Museum of African Art, part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C, is hosting a new exhibition titled “From the Deep: In The Wake With Drexciya, Ayana V. Jackson’ starting on April 29, 2023. This exciting exhibition features the works of the talented artist, Ayana V. Jackson as a tribute to the transatlantic slave trade by bringing to life a powerful and sacred aquatopia inspired by the legend of Drexciya – an underwater kingdom populated by the children of pregnant women who were thrown overboard during the Middle Passage.

Image courtesy of Ayana V Jackson: Poverty Pornography

Ayana V. Jackson’s photography sheds light on the sexualization and racialization of African bodies, paying homage to the generations of survivors while acknowledging the horror and suffering of the transatlantic trafficking in enslaved Africans. Collaborations with artists from different parts of Africa bring an authentic feel of the continent to the exhibition, emphasizing the importance of cross-cultural exchange and collaboration in creating impactful art.

Through photographs, sculptures, installations, and videos, visitors will have the opportunity to explore ideas of ancestry, memory, and resistance that draw on the myth of Drexciya. “Take Me to the Water,” . The photographic series by Ayana V. Jackson, features portraits of black women in various aquatic settings, commenting on the historical and ongoing exploitation of black bodies in aquatic spaces. Works by Drexciya that explore the group’s mythological world, including the standout piece “The Aquatic Being,” a life-sized sculpture emitting sounds and lights, promise to be an immersive experience for viewers.

The exhibition will also feature programming and events, including talks, performances, and workshops, that delve deeper into the exhibition’s themes. Visitors will have the opportunity to engage with artists and experts and learn more about the rich and diverse cultural heritage of the African diaspora

Image courtesy of Mariane Ibrahim

“From the Deep” is a timely and thought-provoking reflection on the legacy of slavery and its ongoing impact on contemporary society, connecting us back to our past and examining its strong influence on our future. According to Karen Milbourne, senior curator and acting head of knowledge production at the National Museum of African Art, Jackson’s artworks are visually stunning and honor generations of survivors. Demanding that we acknowledge the horror and suffering of the transatlantic trafficking of enslaved Africans.

The exhibition will be on display until April 2024, showcasing original photographs, video, animation, installation, scent, sound, and costumes designed in collaboration with Rama Diaw, Olabangi “Cheddar” Arowoshola, and Mwambi Wassaki. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience this powerful exhibition and learn more about the important cultural heritage of the African diaspora.

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