Mapping Black Ecologies
This work is a collaboration between the Black Ecologies initiative’s J.T. Roane and printmaker and photographer Huewayne Watson to create a series of visual layers for a deep mapping project (Hosbey and Roane, 2019) in rural Tidewater Virginia. Integrating dance, film, photography and print work in the form of a zine with local Black expressive culture, including gogo music, a sermonic in the Black prophetic tradition and poetry across digital and print forms, this work triangulates place, ecology and history in order to draw to light the ongoing realities of toxic stewardship and dominion and their impact on the health of rural Black communities as well as the histories of Black survival and thriving despite ecocide under slavery, Jim Crow and the current extractivist economy.
Critically, it begins to stage an alternative architecture of memory and particularly of Black remembrance and place in communities that currently host antiquarian museums that make no mention of Black existence; memorials to slave owning colonial settlers, founding fathers and confederates; and old pillories used to violently punish; but no sustained demarcation of places Black communities cultivated to survive and thrive, nor any sites historicizing the worlds the enslaved or their descendants created in this unique ecotone of water and land.
The digital and print resources will work to activate the insurgent histories around these sites of death and possibility. It will geo-locate, mark and memorialize them and bring them into the present consciousness of people surviving and challenging ecological vulnerability and facing a round of privatization and degradation that endanger local Black lifeways and Black lives.
Image: On a riverbank frequented by fishers along the Rappahannock River in Tappahannock, Virginia — Chesapeake Bay watershed. Photo credit Huewayne Watson.