Michigan Quilt Project
Michigan Quilt Project

Collections Main

The African American Collection

Baron Samedi Visits His New Orleans
Diana N'Diaye
Washington D.C.
Cotton, cotton-polyester, satin, organza
71 1/2” x 53”
MSUM 2010.115.1
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong, all rights reserved Michigan State University Museum

I began this quilt as an artist in residence at Michigan State University. It was inspiring to work right in the gallery surrounded by the powerful quilts assembled for the exhibition celebrating the Declaration of Human Rights. I was honored that the University chose to acquire the finished work. I thank Pat Turner, UC Davis, for including the piece in progress in a presentation at the American Folklore Society on “Katrina quilts” and Marsha MacDowell for showing interest and patience as I completed it.

The boat and the water have been both the sites of despair and death and means of escape and hope economic and physical lifelines for Haitians and the people of African descent in New Orleans. Baron Samedi in the sacred traditions of Haiti- and in New Orleans, is both guardian of the cemetery and the lwa of procreation/fertility/virility. He combines both the origins of life and the decay of the body. He inspires acts of conception and leads souls to the afterlife.

The inner border alludes to the oil spills that represents new water related difficulties that impact the lives, peoples and cultures of the region. I always saw the image of the crowded ships that brought Africans across the Middle Passage to these shores and the Caribbean as powerful but as I sewed the images to the quilt marking the stitches with attention to the number of human beings whose bodies lay side by side, I suddenly had a visceral sense of what it must have been like to be on that ship. The boats that bring Haitians on the risky journey to the US borders (as depicted in the quilt) are equally as crowded as were some of the boats attempting to rescue Katrina survivors. It was tempting to include images from and allusions to the recent earthquake, but chose to deal with water related issues only in this piece.

I wanted the quilt, though depicting devastation to be beautiful even in the depiction of tragedy, in homage to the people of both Haiti and New Orleans who continue with so much tragedy with spirit and creativity.

N’Diaye is an anthropologist, visual artist, Cultural Heritage Specialist and Curator at the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and a Research Associate, Michigan State University Museum. N’Diaye grew up in a Caribbean family where she learned at an early age a love of needlework from her elder aunts and a love of working with cloth from her mother Patricia Croney and her teacher, New York couturier Zelda Wynn.

GLQC Home About GLQC Collections Exhibits Programs Publications Internships/Volunteers Quilt Index On–Line Newsletter Virtual Quilt Sponsors/Endowments Links Quilt Care Site Info Contact Us