Do This in Memory of Me.
Do This in Memory of Me. Detail 1
Do This in Memory of Me. Detail 3
Do This in Memory of Me: Last Supper.
NGO Conference, Krokrobite, Ghana
Mary B. Stanley
There is a strong possibility that the current President of the United States included African nations in his evaluative category of “shithole countries.” This possibility did not surprise anyone across the political spectrum. Some, maybe more than would acknowledge, Americans may have found it refreshing to have a President speak truth to the supposed cultural power of political correctness. Purity and danger. Clean and filthy. Sacred and polluted. Civilization and barbarism. African Shithole Countries and Good Clean “Real” America. Western and American advocates of imperialism and colonization used such tropes and dualisms to legitimate plunder, missionary adventurism, conquest, slavery and sadism.
Yet. Such dualisms hint at another narrative. Desire for the taboo. Did our physically fastidious President indulge in a tableau of sexual voyeurism that gave license to the pull of filth? If he did and given the place where he did it, it is hardly a stretch to accept that he used such an enactment to pollute the power and dignity of the Obama Presidency. Still. Did Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings love each other? Did Strom Thurmond have a Black lover and bi-racial daughter? Desire, curiosity, appreciation for the frisson of crossing boundaries, the sweet taste of taboo, the shocking recognition of the self in the other, the other in the self.
My Sister and I were having dinner in an open-air restaurant in Krokrobite, a beach town near Accra, Ghana. At a long table across from us, a multi-racial group of young women and men were also eating. From bits of overheard conversation, I surmised they were representatives of a number of international development NGOs, They were young, beautiful people. My sketches began a transformation of their interactions into the iconic image of the Last Supper - except that in this tableau, the central Christ figure is bi-species, a Chimera. His upward gesture, lifting the Sacred (in this case not the Host, but the ghostly crow/human child), affirms the mandate to procreate across radical boundaries.
One elegant crow at the table has a necklace of cream feathers native to West Africa. He searches past the Chimeric Christ to gaze at the fully human woman who may or may not wish an encounter of the sort invoked. Perhaps neither does the crow. Or perhaps they see in each other pleasing aspects of identity that reflect the radically different places from which they come. The second woman, resplendent in her feathers, affirms the invitation, "Do this in memory of me." Clearly, her ancestors have and she is pleased.
The last figure, the Crow-headed human is sinister -- both Judas and Lucifer, ready to undermine the lovely, sexually pleasing desire affirmed in this moment of blessing. He betrays the potential for new, more complicated identities. He whispers the age-old fear of race-mixing, hinting that the resultant beings will be abominations. Perhaps he experiences himself this way. "Am I a fallen soul incapable of peace or self-celebration? A creature of neither Heaven nor Hell?" Mythic multi-species creatures, Chimeras, feature in fairy tales, legends and myths in all cultures. They are often fraught, their origin in the desire to be more than merely human or for experiences that are essentially taboo. But they also teach lessons about love, tolerance, and the expansion of the soul.
Syracuse Tech Garden Gallery, Syracuse, NY
“Snow Show”, Winter, 2018
Mary lives and works in Syracuse, NY and Paraty, Brazil.
Do This in Memory of Me. Detail 4
Do This in Memory of Me. Detail 2