Untitled (Boneyard). 1992.
Exhibition Print. Edition EP of 10, 2 APs.
Three gelatin silver prints and one screen print text panel.
60¾ x 40½ x 1½ installed.
© Carrie Mae Weems.
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
Three photographic images depicting unique grave markers, made askew by the passage of time, hint at the rich burial culture of the Gullah people. Myths, legends, and traditions regarding Gullah burial rites are activated by the accompanying text panel. Stemming from an African belief system that asserts the continuation of the “spirit” after death, the Gullah community believed that the dead had an impact on the community of the living. A text panel, adjacent to the photographs, rouses rituals and beliefs of times past. Various everyday objects from seashells, to glassware and teapots were place on the graves to benefit and comfort the departed in the afterlife. Derived from this custom, the practice of permanently pressing the favorite plate of the departed into the wet cement of the grave maker is evident in all three of Weems’ Boneyard photographs. Dates marking the short lifespans of the buried emphasize the harsh conditions these individual were subjected to in their life. Weems depicts the burial cultures of the historically isolated Gullah people in image and text, drawing attention to the rich spiritual and cultural traditions that stem from African traditions as they were practiced on the sea islands.
Molly Donovan ‘16
Gund Gallery Associate