Ubuntu Quiltmaking Project, 2009


Banner Art: Ubuntu Quilt (detail), Fabric art, 2009

Quilt drawing Process (composite), 2009
Quilt drawing Process (composite), 2009

Media: Fabric Arts


Media: Paint on canvas

Mentor Artists:
Kate Jellinghaus, Minotte Romulus, Ann Tobey, Diana Gomez

Teen Artists and Volunteers:
Krystal, Darlene, Jaharrie, Ashley, Dimonique, Alex,  Lakeisha, Lanisha, Danniela, Tayla, Shamay, Nuishcka, Laquisha, Janessa, Debra, Nina, Nicole, Jessica, Jazzalyn, Anita, Kelly, Shatearia, Margaret, Talia, Khalia, Kamyyah, Chantel, Dasha, Jibrie, Sayyid, Myleicia, Medina, Teirra, Nicole, Tyraya, Victoria, Neffi, Jaquell, Neferteari, Jai-lah, Victoria, Jaquell, Jibrie, Kenny, Brianna

Artist Statement

Girls in the juvenile justice system, together with friends, volunteers, and teaching artists, made a large quilt on the theme of UBUNTU, reflecting community and interconnectedness.

The theme of Ubuntu (I am because we are) from its inception was collaborative. The project had many stages, including finding inspiration in hair braiding, making the initial drawings of faces and hairstyles throughout time, translating these drawings to embroidery, and piecing everything together on a sewing machine. The entire process, from design to completion, lasted over two years and involved over sixty people including girls in the juvenile justice system and their friends, undergraduate and graduate students of juvenile justice from Boston College and Wheelock College, and adult mentors. The finished quilt was donated in June 2009 to the National Center of Afro-American Artists in Roxbury, Massachusetts.

Source material for the quilt derived from drawings and paintings of ancient and contemporary African and African-American masks and heads, with a specific focus on hair and braiding. Hair braiding is a favorite weekend activity for girls in detention and relates to their sense of beauty, sisterhood, and friendship. It is also a perfect metaphor for Ubuntu – because it is not only difficult to braid one’s own hair, it is not as pleasing or enjoyable. Braiding is also one of the most ancient forms of art. Like braiding, embroidery and quilt making are historically ways women have gathered to be creative and to build community. This project brought us together for hours of work, but, more importantly, it gave us the opportunity to sit together and talk, laugh, sing, discuss life, build friendships and broaden community.

Grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and Unlocking the Light allowed Artistic Noise to hire DYS girls in the community to work on this project as freelance artists. In this way, the project focused both on developing art skills and on building important life and job skills. The Cloud Foundation the Boston Trinity Foundation, and the Tobey-Wilhelmsen family generously provided us with the space in which to work.

Image Gallery