InLight 2021 Selected Project:
“Deep Inside I’m Blue” by Adama Delphine Fawundu

Exhibition Information:

November 2021

InLight 2021 at Great Shiplock Park, Chapel Island, and along the Virginia Capital Trail and Low Line
Richmond, VA
(Curated by Tiffany Barber, Wesley Taylor and Park Myers and Produced by 1708 Gallery)

Collaborator and contributing writer for Deep Inside I’m Blue by Adama Delphine Fawundu

Installation still of Deep Inside I’m Blue at 1708 Gallery’s InLight. Photography by David Hale.

InLight 2021 Overview (from the InLight website):
1708 Gallery’s 14th annual InLight will take place November 12-13, 2021 at Great Shiplock Park, Chapel Island, and nearby sites along the Virginia Capital Trail and Low Line in Richmond. This outdoor, two-night exhibition features artwork that embraces light and sound through sculpture, installation, and performance. Great Shiplock Park is located at a former shiplock constructed as part of the James River and Kanawha Canal system. Projects will engage with and expand upon the multiple themes and histories that can be found at these sites such as: trade and labor of then-enslaved peoples of African and Indigenous descent during and following the industrial revolution; the environmental impact—especially concerning water resources—of commerce and infrastructure; and the cultivation of spaces for alternative forms of historical preservation.

InLight 2021 is co-curated by Tiffany E. Barber, Wesley Taylor, and Park C. Myers. Participating artists include Adama Delphine Fawundu, Antoine Williams, Ash Arder, Benjamin Kidder Hodges, Eric Millikin, Free Bangura, Isabella Whitfield, Mary Stuart Hall, Rachele Riley + Matt Hedt, Rashaun Rucker, and Senghor Reid x Hope Ginsburg.

For more information on InLight, visit this link.

Project Overview:
With thanks to Adama Delphine Fawundu as well as curators and organizers of InLight, the fantastic work Deep Inside I’m Blue was selected for 1708 Gallery’s 14th annual InLight exhibition. Delphine and I had collaborated together to propose this project for this year’s program, which will be on display alongside a number of other works chosen by curators Tiffany Barber, Wesley Taylor, and Park Myers. Below is the original project proposal written by Delphine and myself.

Through critical and thoughtful curation, the film Deep Inside I’m Blue by Adama Delphine Fawundu will honor the histories of enslaved people of African descent who once passed through the James River near Great Shiplock Park during the Transatlantic and intranational slave trades. Juxtaposed against this waterway and Richmond’s industrial infrastructure - sites where the trade, labor, and oppression of people of color occurred - Fawundu’s video installation will ultimately reformulate a space of cultural annihilation and historic violence into one of empowerment through its celebrated, intricate expression of African and African American culture.

Capturing scenes of Sierra Leone, Argentina, Harlem, Nigeria, Massachusetts, and upstate New York, Deep Inside I’m Blue collages scenes of cultures and landscapes rooted to Fawundu’s Mende and American heritage as well as the migratory patterns of her ancestors. Overlaid with percussive rhythms and lyrics from Mende spirituals and a sampling of Smokey Robinson’s song “Deep Inside I’m Blue,” the work cuts to different scenes including Fawundu smearing blue pigment down her face, the Mono River’s receding tide, an Argentinian carnival, pages of Mende scripture, desolate railroad stations, and the artist dressed in blue batik. This layering of various sounds and clips represents the merging of Fawundu’s familial cultural traditions, while also alluding to the oscillating embracement of African culture she witnessed around the world. The work not only demonstrates the artist’s intent to connect with her kin, specifically her grandmother of Sierra Leone, but it offers an expansive, complex understanding of experience for many who descend from the African Diaspora.

While each scene astutely encapsulates Fawundu’s exploration of her heritage, both West African and Western, Deep Inside I’m Blue also showcases her examination of the significance of water and blue. Common throughout Fawundu’s work, water serves to symbolize the African deity Mami Wata as well as the moving, fluid connection between the artist’s familial legacies spanning the Atlantic Ocean. The work’s display beside a body of water with ties to African Diasporic histories, like the James River, will ultimately recuperate the site’s connections to West African spirituality and emphasize the medium that links Fawundu’s broader ancestral past and present. Comparatively, blue - represented by water, batik fabrics, pigment, and soulful music - articulates the emotional complexities and compounded realities of Fawundu’s identity. She nods to the conventional interpretation of blue as sorrow, yet importantly moves beyond this definition to suggest the extraordinary, magical, transcendental power embodied within African and African American communities.

Placed on the James River’s shoreline at Great Shiplock Park opposite of the historic slave docks at Ancarrow’s Landing, Deep Inside I’m Blue will inspire critical reflection on the legacy and resiliency of African narratives and expressions that have traversed and continue to exist ubiquitously. This placement will also reveal the connective threads of exchange through natural liminal spaces like water and land, thereby invoking interconnectivity across both cultural and environmental thresholds and transforming violent sites into spaces of empowerment and growth.

Installation still of Deep Inside I’m Blue at 1708 Gallery’s InLight. Photography by David Hale.
Website last updated 11/3/2022.