Mellon Public Curatorial Expression

Material Resistance: Social Justice & Empowerment Narratives Told Through Cloth
Curated by Dyese Matthews (FSAD), Jenine Hillaire (AIISP), Kat Roberts (FSAD), Ami Tamakloe (Anthropology)

  • Nov 7-Dec 2, 2022
    Jill Stuart Gallery

  • Nov 11, 2022 12pm
    Johnson Museum Lynch Conference Room
    (Please Register HERE)

“Material Resistance: Social Justice and Empowerment Narratives Told Through Cloth” is an exhibition that utilizes fashion and other fiber arts to tell the stories of communities that have historically been marginalized. This exhibition aims to critically contribute to the larger, ongoing conversations on equity, resistance, and liberation, while simultaneously humanizing the surplus of struggles related to social justice.

Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi, Ghana: In collaboration with The LGBT Rights Ghana and Dramaqueens, Va-Bene will be leading a community art project that uses texts and images on handkerchiefs to situate stories of humanity and citizenship of queer people in Ghana. These stories will be mounted as part of the exhibition.

Dr. Tameka Ellington, USA: “Sis Alligator Meets Trouble” is a one-of-a-kind piece created by designer and researcher Dr. Tameka Ellington (CF+TC 2022.03.001). The gown is inspired by the tale “Bruh Alligator Meets Trouble,” a story originating among the Gullah Geechee people, African Americans who live in the southeastern region of the United States, and retold by author Virginia Hamilton. This unique dress was draped and then cut from leather and includes design elements referencing significant themes in the story.

Sylvia Hernandez, USA: Four quilts, including “Guns Have More Rights Than a Uterus” (2021), “Community PTSD” (2021), “Birmingham Bombing” (2012), and “Basquiat” (2021).

Kate Sekules, USA: “Sew Her Name Dress” (2020-2022), linen with mercerized cotton floss, 60 in x 35 in.

Agnes Yellow Bear (Woodward), Canada: Ribbon skirt titled “Never Forgotten” reminds us of the matriarchal power we carry as Indigenous women. T-dress titled “Still Here” is a reminder of the genocide that has been perpetrated against Indigenous Peoples since contact for express purpose to remove us from the land and the wealth of the resources. Jingle dress titled “Loved Beyond Words” has red jingles and words that were given to Agnes by family members in honor of their daughters, mothers, sisters, nieces, and aunts.

Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi, Ghana: Pronoun: “sHit” if not “she.” Born 1981 in Ho, Ghana, Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi [crazinisT artisT] works internationally but lives in Kumasi, Ghana. sHit is a multidisciplinary “artivist”, curator, mentor, and the founder and artistic director of perfocraZe International Artists Residency (pIAR) which is aimed at promoting exchange between international and local artists, activists, researchers, curators, and thinkers. As a performer and installation artist, crazinisT investigates gender stereotypes, prejudices, queerness, identity politics and conflicts, sexual stigma, and their consequences for marginalized groups or individuals. With rituals and a gender-fluid persona, sHit employs sHit’s own body as a thought-provoking tool in performances, photography, video, and installations, ‘life-and-live-art’ confronting issues such as disenfranchisement, social justice, violence, objectification, internalized oppression, anti blackness, systemic indoctrination, and many more.

crazinisT has performed and exhibited across the globe including countries such as Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, Switzerland, South Africa, Germany, Netherlands, Cape Verde, USA, Spain, Brazil, France, and UK. sHit has also been featured in several, publications and magazines such as the I-D Vice London, I-D Vice Dutch, Financial Times, King Kong Magazine, CCQ London, Miami Rails, ‘Freeflowingvisuals’, TRT WORD Film Documentary, This is Africa, Art Ghana, Lost At E Minor, CNN, The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Die Tageszeitung (TAZ), Horizonte da Cena, Radio FRO, etc.

Dr. Tameka Ellington, USA: Dr. Tameka is the CEO and Founder of the 1st Generation Revolutionaries movement. Not only is she an internationally acclaimed and awarded educator and scholar, Dr. Tameka is a motivational speaker, professional development strategist, and 1st generation student advocate. Her creative scholarship is inspired by African art and folklore. Her work has been shown internationally including two exhibitions in Beijing, China. She publishes research in the discipline of social-psychological aspects of dress for African Americans and other minorities, such as people with disabilities. Her publications on hair have reached national and international recognition via peer-reviewed journals as well as dress and culture encyclopedias. One of her most recent projects is the internationally acclaimed and awarded exhibition she co-curated entitled, “TEXTURES: the history and art of Black hair,” which opened at the Kent State University Museum in Fall 2021. In partnership with Himer Publishing, “TEXTURES: the history and art of Black hair,” the exhibition catalogue was also published and has received numerous awards. Her final academic publication will be with Kent State University Press for an anthology she authored and edited entitled, “Navigating the Black Hair Phenomenon in a White World.”

Sylvia Hernandez, USA: Sylvia was born in the Lower East Side in New York City and moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn when she was a baby and never left. She is a self-taught fiber artist and quilter for over 20 years. She began quilting for fun and to make bed quilts, but now makes quilts that tell a story, send a message, and might even make some people upset. She is referred to as a Social Justice Quilter. Sylvia works from a studio space in her home. Her work is in the private collections of The Williamsburg Art & Historical Center, El Puente, Spike Lee, Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, and the Fine Arts Museum in Boston, Massachusetts. Sylvia has taken part in more than 40 exhibitions across the United States.

Kate Sekules, USA: Kate has been a practitioner of visible mending, or codesign, for four decades. She is a doctoral candidate in Material Culture, history and theory of mending, at Bard Graduate Center, New York, with an M.A in Costume Studies from NYU. She is Assistant Professor of Fashion History at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, and has taught the methodologies, contexts, and practice of textile repair at Parsons, FIT, Tufts, the Textile Society of America, the Association of Dress Historians, UK, RISD Museum, Winterthur Museum, and the Textile Arts Center, New York, among many others. Her book MEND! A Refashioning Manual and Manifesto was published by Penguin in fall 2020.

Agnes Yellow Bear (Woodward), Canada: Agnes is Néhiyaw from Treaty 4 territory and a member of Kawacatoose First Nations. She currently resides in North Dakota with her husband and children. Agnes uses her personal experiences and art to amplify Indigenous voices and to empower Indigenous people, bring healing, visibility and connection to Indigenous identity.

Agnes is an MMIW family member and advocate, speaker, grassroots community organizer, and owner/ribbon skirt designer of ReeCreeations. In 2017 Agnes created an MMIWG2S+ ribbon skirt design in honor of her family and it quickly became an iconic design among advocates and families in the MMIWG2S+ movement. Since 2017 she has made over 300 MMIWG2S+ ribbon skirts for folks across the U.S. and Canada, and they have been on Congress floor more than once when discussing the issue. She is also well known for the ribbon skirt Secretary Deb Haaland wore during her swearing in ceremony.

Agnes’ ribbon work has been featured in Bust Magazine, InStyle magazine,, and many other mainstream media platforms. Her recent dress design titled “Roots of Love and Resilience” was recently featured in the “Noojimo She Heals” art exhibit at “All My Relations Arts” in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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