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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Black Memorabilia: What does it Mean?


I picked up this little piece of American history at a consignment shop for $1.91. Good buy, huh? I thought so. I was thinking about how expensive black memorabilia can be online, so I looked up this piece hoping that I had found a gem. I found it and saw that the print is sold for about $15. That's still a good buy. The piece that I have was copied on to metal, so it may be slightly more. As I thought about why I was attracted to this picture, I was reminded that nearly (if not) all black memorabilia was created by white folks.
This particular picture is by Nell Hott. Again, I wondered why I was so attracted to it -- this young African American girl with a big ol' piece of watermelon. The picture conveys that this watermelon is so good and sweet that the girl's eyes roll to the back of her head as she savors its taste. This is definitely looked upon by most as racist art, but I still like it. Besides, this image was created in 1924. It was weird when I saw it though; I was offended and thrilled at the same time. Anyway, I came to the conclusion that not only do I like black memorabilia, but I really love a cold piece of sweet watermelon.

12 comments:

Guyana-Gyal said...

It also shows how far we've come history-wise, perception-wise.

I saw a tv show, Sunday Morning, that did a bit on this, it was quite interesting, I think one man used to collect, and he was selling some of his pieces.

Lovebabz said...

Stephen Bess,
I so feel you on this. I have several pieces I have bought at auction here and there...pieces I bought for my then husband.

It is bittersweet. On the one hand, I buy it because it is art and it ought to be preserved. On the other had it was designed to shame us. I am not shamed by us. I think we are extraordinarily beautiful. So I buy this stuff as my part in preserving our history. As a way to tell my children our story...their story.

As always you give me pause....

((HUGS))

get zapped said...

Me too, white folks love watermelon too :) This really expresses the joy of biting into a juicy melon on a hot summer day! I miss this.

Btw, I posted mywriters meme. Check it out.

A.Jaye said...

Like a child born out of rape
Comes forth beauty
Born out of racial hate.
Buyer beware.

Deb S. said...

I understand exactly what you're saying. This image immediately reminded me of The Black Book by Middleton A. Harris.

ninamm said...

You can have the watermelon, but I love the piece. I love it when we claim the ugliness thrust upon us, and make it beautiful. *in my Austin Power's voice* Yeah, baby!

MDUBB said...

@ Lovebabz

You are right on the money for preserving these pieces not only for your piece of mind but for your children as well.

Fly Girl said...

Our history is very wrapped up in the images created to portray us. I don't get offened by memorabiliia because I know it was produced by outsider's with a warped view. I like the little girl's joy as well. My husband collects pieces like these. He has a collection of banks, salt & pepper shakers and postcards of sambos, mammies and pickinninies. He collects them so that our children know this history. He also refuses to eat watermelon, ever.

Fitzgerald said...

I might have mentioned it before, but I never learned that I was supposed to like water melon until a white guy in the Navy pointed that fact out to me. LOL.

I must have enjoyed a piece of water melon just like that little girl on one of those hot summer days back in Louisiana, in the early seventies or late sixties.

Black on Campus said...

I collect Black memorabilia, too. I think the images are fascinating. I'm always amazed by the fact that at a time when there was supposed to be a strict separation between the "races," there were Black people all up in white people's homes -- on the products they kept in their kitchens and bathrooms, on the print of their tablecloths and throw pillows, as cookie jars, memo boards, syrup dispensers, spice racks...

The irony is incredible.

Barbara said...

Stephen
I also liked your picture. As for why you liked it; I'll tell you why I like this kind of folk art. Yes some would consider it racist and those who churned it out thought of African Americans more as caricatures than people. But everytime I bought a mammy doll or picture like yours, I felt as though I was reclaiming my history. For me, this kind of thing reminids me of the tremendous resiliency of my people to overcome. No racist image can define me and I alone am in charge of my destiny. Invoking shame is exactly the intention behind much of this kind of 'art.' However in owning it, we are sending the message that we define ourselves and refuse to self hate.

Stephen Bess said...

GG-
Yes, it definitely shows how far we've come. This image is not offensive to me. I've seen some that are but this one appeals.

Lovebabz-
That's the way that I see it. How would anyone ever know that it all existed if it is not preserved. Hugs back. :)

Getzapped-
I wish I had some watermelon right now. :)

AJaye-
I see your point and this is a nice poem, but...I still love this piece. If it is meant to offend me then I guess I have some soul searching to do. Thanks.

DebS-
Thanks. I need to look that up.

Ninamm-
Yeah, Baby!...Yeah!

Mdubb-
Thanks for stopping through.

FlyGirl-
I agree with all you said. About watermelon...it arrived with the slave trade. It's an African melon. In some parts of Africa, it is used as a source for water in the dry season.

Fitzgerald-
Ain't that something. There are some people who try to use our native fruit against us. :)

Black on Campus-
Yes, the irony is incredible. It's also ironic that others are now purposely making their lips and butt bigger. Wow!

Barbara-
Thanks for visiting. I agree. The thing that was once offensive to us (darker skin, big lips, big bright eyes, etc) are now beautiful. Well, at least I see beauty in them. Yes, there are some that are ugly and cruel, but it's always a blessing when we can see the beauty. Thanks again.