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Published October 30, 2023

This art exhibit opening and artist talk by Hunter Shackelford was recorded on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023.

The Afrolantica art exhibition centers the narratives of fugitive slaves in Virginia which include necessary speculation to supplement the missing citations of maroon life, fugitivity, and antiblack terror. In the afterlife of slavery (Hartman), we conject the horrors of chattel slavery just as much as we can confirm them. Because we have to. No archive, no future. No evidence, no crime. No mother, no-body. The space between what is absolutely confirmed and what is absolute knowing in the afterlife of slavery is filled by what antiblackness leaves us with – our deadly imaginations.

Our most frightening dilemma of this world is not just the disappeared archive of slave stories, but the inventive stories we create to fill in the blanks of what our people survived, how they escaped, and what they did to compensate for a prescribed death. The majority of fugitive slave narratives are passed down in domestic corridors, confined to hush harbors, and are still on the run with those who escaped. To find maroon life, we must undrown (Gumbs) ourselves from beneath the storm surge of revisionist histories, poisoned state archives, antiblack mischaracterizations, and disappeared stories of disappeared people. We must use deadly imagination as insurgent intervention to antiblack terror.

Artist/ Fellow Biography

Hunter Shackelford (they) is a Black multidisciplinary artist, independent scholar, death worker, and bioethicist based in the DMV. Hunter is a contemporary writer and mixed media painter known for using incendiary motifs of Blackness, gender, fatness, and death. Their work centers the politics of Black insurgency, Black mortality, Black feminist ethics, and ugliness. Learn more about Hunter’s work at HunterAshleigh.com.

Vanessa Adkins, right, is apprenticing under her cousin Jessica Canaday Stewart learning the finer points of traditional Chickahominy dancing. Photos taken at the Fall Festival and Pow Wow in Charles City on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.

Our work brings people together and honors our shared humanity.

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