The William Grant Still Arts Center presents The 43nd Annual Black Doll Show, Conjure: Reclaiming African American Traditions Through Hoodoo and Other Spiritual Dolls
December 2, 2023 to February 10, 2024
Opening reception, Saturday, December 2, 2023, from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
The William Grant Still Arts Center (WGSAC) is proud to announce the longest running annual exhibition in Los Angeles, The 43rd Annual Black Doll Show entitled, Conjure: Reclaiming African American Traditions Through Hoodoo and Other Spiritual Dolls. The exhibition explores the many protective, liberatory, and loving ways that dolls, amulets, quilts, charms and other items are used in African-American spiritual traditions.
Dolls in African spirituality are powerful tools that offer an opportunity for ritual healing through veneration of ancestors, protection, good fortune, education, and overall well-being. Chosen by curator Monica Bailey, “Conjure” will use dolls and other spiritual objects to immerse viewers in African cosmology through an African- American lens. The exhibit, co-curated by Oluwo Fakolade (Babalawo), encourages viewers to ask the question, “How can these tools help us flourish our connection with our origin stories and honor these histories going forward?”
Events and Ancillary Programs:
December 2, 2023 from 3:00- 6:00 p.m. –Opening Reception
Concert with The Hoodoo Spellbinders
Marcus L. Miller – band leader/drums
Makeda Kumasi – kora/vocals
Nailah Porter – vocals
Cydney Davis – vocals
Bobby Pierce – keyboards
Anikulapo – bass
Mark Tyson – guitar
Tamica Washington-Miller – movement
December 16 – Altar workshop, Dr. Cynthia Davis and Beverly Heath
January 6 – Master Workshop and Panel Discussion, Griffin Lotson and Other Artists TBA (Gullah Geechee Historian and Manager of the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters)
January 11- Performance Art, Jade Daniels
January 13 – Spirit Doll Workshop, Nawili Grey and Fana Babadayo
January 20 – Doll Workshop, “Dolls of Hope,” Dr. Cynthia Davis
January 27 – Candle Making workshop, The AfroMystic
February 3 – Doll Workshop, Aiysha Sinclair
February 2 – Film Screening, Your Children Will Come Back to You, Alile Sharon Larkin Filmmaker (LA Rebellion Collective)
February 10 – Closing event, TBA
Monica Bailey is a cultural producer based in Los Angeles. Her focus is primarily in the neighborhoods of Inglewood and South Central Los Angeles, where she grew up and resides, but she has begun a national reach. Her work focuses on culturally conscious community building through the arts in poetry, live performance, radical fashion, storytelling, pedagogy and organizing. As a creator and Education and Community Outreach Coordinator at the William Grant Still Arts Center, Monica has always been enthralled with the way dolls provide a mirrored reflection of the self. Monica connects emotionally with dolls and grew up using dolls in imaginative play. She often feels that dolls are connected to us spiritually and that they somehow have the ability to understand our feelings. Monica’s family is from Mississippi and had roots in the COGIC (Church of God In Christ) church, which is rooted in many hoodoo principles. In recently learning of this connection, Monica wanted to explore hoodoo, the Black church, food, and herbs to understand more fully her family and herself.
Jahsun Ifakolade Edmonds is a lecturer at California State University Dominguez Hills and an Ifa Priest (babalawo). He has been an initiated priest for over eighteen years. He is also initiated into the mysteries of Esu Odara, Oro, Anya (Afro-Cuban Yoruba Drum), Afro-Cuban Palo Mayombe, and Vodun (From Benin Republic). His areas of focus are African History and the practical application of African/African Diaspora Spiritual and Martial Arts systems. Professor Edmonds has a B.A. degree in Philosophy and Africana Studies, as well as a M.F.A. in Literature and Creative Writing. He earned the rank of professor in the art of Capoeira Angola De São Bento Grande and he is also trained in the Afro Caribbean Stick fighting arts of Kalinda (from the USA and Trinidad & Tobago) and Maculele (from Brazil). Professor Edmonds is also the Oluwo (Chief Priest) of Idin Kaa Ifa temple, where he works to help the South Central Los Angeles community through healing rituals, ebo, and spiritual remedies.
About the Black Doll Show at the William Grant Still Arts Center
The Black doll show was inspired by a doll test conducted by Mamie and Kenneth Clark. The tests concluded that due to social stigmas, many black children preferred white dolls over black dolls. This test went on to become evidence in civil rights lawsuits. The Clarks became expert witnesses in Brown vs. Board of education and helped the landmark decision to desegregate schools. This doll test was conducted again in 2006 by 17-year-old filmmaker Kiri Davis, sadly with the same results. Inspired by the doll test, artist/curator Cecil Fergerson started the Black Doll show in the ‘80s. Wanting to change the negative self-image, Fergerson brought together handmade dolls by artists around the country into one exhibit. Through its many transformations, the Black Doll Show has been a celebration of Black dolls from slavery, Jim Crow, freedom marches, music, dance, jazz, hip-hop and more.