Gris-Gris, an online journal of literature, culture & the arts

« Cabins

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“The Quarters” Whenever I’ve photographed the remains of slave quarters, at Laura or other plantations, my experience has been similar. I feel an initial resistance to being there – either from within myself or from the site. So, I speak to the place, to the buildings, and to whatever memories still reside. I explain my intentions and offer a prayer of respect to those who once lived and died there. Today, we view slave cabins as relics, museum pieces from a time that is hard to imagine from our modern position of comfort and privilege. At one time, these structures were part of a community that offered slaves a paltry degree of privacy and a meager social life that was vital to help them create a sense of family. Here, they developed an underground culture through which they affirmed their humanity – gathering in the evenings to tell stories, sing, practice traditional beliefs and rituals, and make secret plans for a better life. It was from these quarters that the African folk tales of Compair Lapin (Brother Rabbit) and Compair Bouki (Brother Hyena) and others found their way into the folklore of the South and the hearts of children everywhere. The cabins remember their voices and the stories they told.”

“The Quarters” Whenever I’ve photographed the remains of slave quarters, at Laura or other plantations, my experience has been similar. I feel an initial resistance to being there – either from within myself or from the site. So, I speak to the place, to the buildings, and to whatever memories still reside. I explain my intentions and offer a prayer of respect to those who once lived and died there. Today, we view slave cabins as relics, museum pieces from a time that is hard to imagine from our modern position of comfort and privilege. At one time, these structures were part of a community that offered slaves a paltry degree of privacy and a meager social life that was vital to help them create a sense of family. Here, they developed an underground culture through which they affirmed their humanity – gathering in the evenings to tell stories, sing, practice traditional beliefs and rituals, and make secret plans for a better life. It was from these quarters that the African folk tales of Compair Lapin (Brother Rabbit) and Compair Bouki (Brother Hyena) and others found their way into the folklore of the South and the hearts of children everywhere. The cabins remember their voices and the stories they told.

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