As Ntozake Shange prepares to celebrate the 40th anniversary of her seminal work, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf with the launch of a multi-gallery exhibition, she can’t help but sadly acknowledge that the issues facing women that first compelled her to write the work remain relevant today.
“Unfortunately there has not been progress. I think this violence against women — just like the violence against those poor Nigerian girls kidnapped from their school — is in direct response to a scared patriarchy,” said Shange. “Women who are out of control have always scared men. And there are ridiculous abortion laws that make it virtually impossible to open an abortion clinic in some of these states, and if you do, then people kill abortion doctors. So, no, we are not in better shape.”
With that viewpoint she is looking forward to the exhibition, i found god in myself that not only celebrates her work, but also serves the dual purpose of increasing awareness about the current plight and triumphs of women. The exhibition is anchored by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, which features 20 specially commissioned pieces in honor of the individual poems from For Colored Girls ... which touch on women’s experiences with love, sexuality, racial identity, domestic violence, rape, abortion, sisterhood, and ultimately, self-love.
The multi-gallery exhibition extends beyond the walls of the Schomburg to include additional noncommissioned artworks on display at two satellite locations, The Sol Studio and La Maison d’Art. These multimedia works reference the aforementioned themes while simultaneously broadening the scope of Shange’s text to encompass a contemporary perspective on issues such as class, body image, gender identity, immigration, politics and war. [Full disclosure: writer serves as curator of the exhibition.]
“It occurs to me that half of us receive language and learning visually and another half receive it verbally,” she said. “So if this exhibition opens up my work to those that are visually stimulated, that’s a wonderful thing. I’m reaching an audience I couldn’t reach on my own and I’m excited about that.”
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