Images by Nash Baker.
The Little Girl in the Lion’s Den: Sankofa Project, Artist Statement
The Little Girl in the Lion’s Den:
Artist Statement by Tierney Malone
“Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women”.
– Harriet Jacob (Formerly enslaved, self-liberated author of Incident in the Life of a Slave Girl, circa 1861)
This work is inspired by the countless women who suffered and survived chattel slavery and those who were dedicated warriors in the struggle against the American caste system. One can only imagine the constant trauma of rape, the kidnapping of children, and the daily-present shadow of death on family and loved ones. It is these women who in the face of all of this created family and maintained it to the best of their abilities through two centuries of slavery. During the 100 years that followed emancipation came the backlash of American apartheid known as Jim Crow, which birthed the civil rights era. These women were not just soldiers in the ranks but the critical organizers and strategists behind the most visible male leaders. They were the tip of the sword in the struggle for school integration across the country according to scholar Rachel Devlin in her book A Girl Stands at the Door: The Generation of Young Women Who Desegregated America’s Schools.
The imagery of the little girl walking through flames surrounded by angry lions is drawn from two familiar stories from the Bible. The first is “Daniel in the lions’ den” and the other is “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego” in the fiery furnace. In the drawing, the central figure is a little girl who is walking through the furnace of racial intolerance and facing the angry lion’s of mob violence. The little girl is 5-year-old Ruby Bridges, who in 1960 bravely integrated a New Orleans school. Alone, she faced an angry mob of white citizens who opposed her pursuing an education at a public school to which her parents and community contributed taxes. In the drawing, all this takes place in front of the American cathedral built on the oppressive systems of slavery, Jim Crow, Black Codes, and a racial caste system that continues to present day. The little girl stands under the banner of the current racial equality movement, “Black Lives Matter,” which was started in response to police brutality by three African American women: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opai Tometi.
About The Sankofa Project
Curated by Tierney L. Malone, The Sankofa Project is a multi-year examination of the historical events leading up to our current moment of social unrest and racial reckoning. Beginning with the people and stories that make up our own communities of Houston, this project aims to bring light to the events that have been censored or ignored in historical narratives in order to reinforce the racial oppression of Black Americans.
The Sankofa Project will commission three artists annually to create and present new work that is reflective of their own experience in contemporary America and related to the work of scholars and historians who are leading conversations on race and inequality. The artists’ work will be presented in Lawndale’s east-facing windows on Main Street and accompanied by a podcast and public program to inspire dialogue within our community.
“Sankofa” is the Ghanaian word most commonly translated as “one must acknowledge the past in order to move forward.” Thus, in The Sankofa Project, Malone brings together artists and our community to reflect upon the past, reminding us of the power of art to serve not only as the language of humanity but also its catalyst for change.
About the Artist & Curator
Tierney L. Malone is a visual artist and modern day storyteller who uses the canon of African-American history and pop culture to create mixed media works that challenge contemporary culture and politics.
Malone has exhibited his art widely throughout Texas and the United States, including numerous solo exhibitions. His works are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Kansas City Jazz Museum, Kansas City, Missouri; Goldman Sachs, New York, New York; and the Federal Reserve Bank, Houston, Texas. He is the recipient of the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant, a CACHH Visual Artist Grant, and a Kimbrough Visual Artist Grant.
Collaboration with the jazz community is also at the forefront of Malone’s practice, including commissions to create the jacket covers for jazz musician Don Byron’s 1999 CD, Romance of the Unseen, on the Blue Note Label and for jazz pianist Randy Weston’s 2003 performance at the Miller Outdoor Theater. In 2008, Malone completed two jazz-related major commissions: a limited edition print celebrating Da Camera of Houston’s 20th Anniversary and an outdoor mural entitled “Southern Sounds” for the Coleman Art Center in York, Alabama. Additionally, Malone is the creator of the Jazz Church of Houston and the host of the Houston Jazz Spotlight on 90.1 KPFT, both of which recognize and preserve Houston’s remarkable contribution to the musical genre of Jazz.
Born in Los Angeles and based in Houston’s historic Third Ward, Malone was raised in Mississippi and Alabama and considers himself a Southern Seed.