Creole Portraits III

Initially presented as an illustration of the journal for the booklet of The Manufacturing of Rights (Ashkal Alwan, 2015), Creole Portraits became an integral part of the body of works of the exhibition.

Creole Portraits III alludes to the 18th century practice by slave women on Caribbean plantations of using tropical plants as natural abortifacients.1 As an act of political resistance against their exploitation as “breeders” of new slaves and to protest the inhumanity of slavery, some slave women chose to either abort or kill their offspring. Armed with practical knowledge passed on orally from their African ancestors and/or Amerindian counterparts, enslaved Creole women collected the seeds, bark, flowers, sap, and roots from various plants which allowed them to secretly put an end to their pregnancies. This series of female Creole portraits is “named” for the botanical specimens used by these women to induce abortion. The lithographic portraits reveal intricately braided Afro-centric hairstyles viewed from behind entwined within the iron slave collars which were used to punish female slaves accused of inducing abortion. Each portrait also displays one of the botanical specimens used for this purpose.

Creole Portraits III: 'bringing down the flowers...', hand-coloured stone lithographs on frosted mylar, 2009–2011


  • Joscelyn Gardner

Image: Joscelyn Gardner, hibiscus esculentus (Sybil), 36 x 24", detail

1. Joscelyn Gardner, Veronica frutescens (Mazerine), 2009
Hand-colored lithograph on frosted mylar
36" x 24"
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