Client: Flux Project
Location: Atlanta, GA, United States
Completion date: 2021
Artwork budget: $84,000
Video Collage Designer/Artist
Composer & Vocalist, "Rite to Freedom"
Malesha Jessie Taylor
Composer & Producer, "Rite to Freedom"
Clark Tate & Mathew Weaver
Point Office Architecture & Design
C.D. Moody Construction
Julie Yarbrough Photography
Honoring the over 800 unmarked graves in the African American Burial Grounds of Oakland Cemetery, Remembrance as Resistance featured a replica of a praise house, which were small wooden structures used by enslaved people in the American South as places of worship. The project integrated immersive video projections on its interior accompanied by a powerful original soundtrack, Rite to Freedom, which emanated from the praise house over the burial grounds. A testament to the resilience of a people, Remembrance celebrated the enduring legacy of the ring shout and its influence on contemporary dance, music, and spoken word.
The soundtrack featured traditional song forms found in the Black church blended with African drumming and present-day manifestations of electronic dance music. The interior videos were a collage of moving and still imagery integrating archival photographs, contemporary video footage of the ring shout performed in The Gambia and in the American South, Charmaine Minniefield’s drawings of the performers, and glimpses of vocalist Malesha Jessie Taylor recording Rite to Freedom.
Remembrance opened on Juneteenth 2021 and was on view through July 11.
Remembrance honored the over 800 graves in the African American Burial Ground, most enslaved people whose bodies were disinterred from their resting spot in the cemetery’s original Slave Square so the plots could be resold to white families as the cemetery expanded following the Civil War. Minniefield sought to pay proper reverence to these ancestors. The project was the only memorial to African American ancestors in a cemetery that still featured multiple monuments to the Confederacy.
Flux Projects commissioned the work, which was hosted by Atlanta’s historic Oakland Cemetery. Lead artist Charmaine Minniefield worked with a talented group of Atlanta artists to realize the project.
The ring shout is an African-American worship and gathering practice with West African roots that predate enslavement. Moving in a circle, participants perform a full-bodied rhythmic movement of stomping and clapping combined with call-and-response singing. In her work, artist Charmaine Minniefield traces the influence of this art form into contemporary African-American music, dance, and spoken word as evidence of the endurance of a people.