Still I Rise: The Blues On Cloth

When my mother and father were married, her Aunt Clara, gave her a white Damask tablecloth. My grandmother’s husband wouldn’t allow my parents to be married in Wilson because he considered my father to be “an undesirable” because he was Seminole from a reservation in Florida, and my mother, his step-daughter, to be a “heathen.” He later recounted his rationale to me while cussing me out for being born and living in his house. Ironic because my mother paid the rent and all the household bills. His money went to support his other woman and her children. Aunt Clara and her husband, Uncle Wibur, sponsored my parents wedding in Atlantic City, New Jersey and were the only family in attendance, as her mother was forbidden to attend.

Momma prized her tablecloth and as the kind, generous person that she was used it on special family occasions, church functions, sorority events and end of year school ceremonies. In later years, Momma, catered weddings and many a bride had her tablecloth on the table showcasing their wedding cake. Years of use had taken its toll on the tablecloth, which had punch stains and beige age marks along the folds. However, the weave of the fabric wasn’t compromised, so I took a chance and immersed it into an indigo vat using the “Little Canoe” resist binding design. Voilá! Look at it now!

tablecloth01Hanging on two clotheslines provided this unique visual point of view.
tablecloth02Close-Up of Center of Tablecloth

While watching the transformation of the indigo oxidization process, I was reminded of Maya Angelou’s poem, “And Still I Rise.” With all of the trials and tribulations of five generations of women in my family that I have knowledge about, this poem sums us up. When expanded outside my family it tells of the survival of indigenous women everywhere, especially those of us from cultures where we’ve been raped, beaten, enslaved, kidnapped, mentally and physically abused and can shout, “Still Here!”

Using plants, flowers, barks, nuts and insects to color fibers teaches us many lessons about life. The processes of making color on cloth can help heal our brokenness through creative hands experiences. As I witnessed the transformation of Momma’s white stained and yellowed tablecloth oxidize from green to blue and from light to dark with multiple dipping, I felt the pain, anger and resentment attached to it die away. The beauty from love, sharing and generosity is now seen in all its glory. It all comes back to creativity and actively participating in the process of making something from nothing. I’m humbled and thankful for the life lessons earned from practicing art making. “To God Be The Glory!”

Published by Carola Jones, Artist

Indigenous Artist, Writer, Designer | Internet Techie | Pow Wow Dancer | Lover of Dyeing Cloth Especially With Indigo, Madder & Marigold | 4th Generation Hand Embroidery & Sewing Enthusiastic | Working Traveler | NC Toisnot & Mattamuskeet Tuscarora & FL Seminole | Algonquin Gullah Mixed Blood

4 thoughts on “Still I Rise: The Blues On Cloth

  1. Your words are so eloquent. I hope you’ll write a life story for your Mom. I think others will benefit from her persistence and ability to rise above and survive. Even the testimony to her faith is magnificent.


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