Michigan State University masthead
Top Navigation Museum Logo
about tes  |  available exhibits  |  upcoming schedule  |  funding resources  |  view exhibits online
Quilts and human rights


Pages: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | back to Quilts and Human Rights page

Photo of the About the exhibit text panel Photo of the About text panel

Photo of The Look text panel Photo of the Declaration of Human Rights text panel

Photo of the Honoring Champions text panel Photo of South African Women quilt

South African Black Women Anti-Apartheid Leaders
Phina Nkosi
Soweto, South Africa
Cotton with polyester batting
77 1/2" x 83"
Collection of Michigan State University Museum

The quilt incorporates portraits of black South African women who the artist felt were instrumental in the struggle for freedom in South Africa. Depicted, left to right and with artist's original spelling in parentheses, are: (row one) Winne Mandela, Albertina Sisulu, Adelaide Tambo (Addelatte Thamo), Lindiwe [no last name give, but likely Lindiwe Nonceba Sisulu], Thandie Modise; (row two) Nokukhauya Huthuli, Lillian Masediba Nhoyi (Lillian Mosediba Ngoyi), Princess Contance Magogo (Princess Contance Magogo), Dudu Masondo, Stella Sigcau (Stell Sigcawu); (row three) Dipuwo Hanni, Florence Mkhhize (Florance Mkmize), Charlotte Maxeke, Dr. Ellen Khuzwayo, Princess Irene (Princess Irene); and (row four) Marry [sic] Nontolwane, Lillian Ntshang, Felicia Mabuza-Suttle, Rose Givamanda, and Kate [no last name given, but likely Kate Molale].

This quilt was included in a national exhibition of crafts shown at the Craft Council of South, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2004. It was acquired by the MSU Museum during a bi-national South African Cultural Heritage Project for which the MSU Museum was a lead US partner.


Photo of Voices of Freedom quilt

Voices of Freedom
Deonna Todd Green
Remus, Michigan
Cotton with polyester filling; hand quilted
48" x 48"
Collection of Michigan State University Museum, gift of the artist

Each of the 49 blocks in this quilt is devoted to a different figure important in African-American history and includes an embroidered portrait, the person's name, their birth/ death date, and a note about their accomplishment. The embroidery is in green, red, and black embroidery floss - the colors of the Pan African Flag. This flag was originally created by the members of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and African Communities League as the official banner of the African Race. It was formally adopted by UNIA in article 39 of the Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World on August 13, 1920, during their convention held in New York City. The flag and the colors became an African nationalist symbol for the liberation of African peoples everywhere.

Photo of View from the Mt. top quilt

View from the Mountian Top
Beverly Ann White
Pontiac, Michigan
82 1/2" x 48 1/2"
Collection of Michigan State University Museum, gift of the artist

"I cannot chronicle the brave and valiant fight of each and every one of the honorable souls who have fought for the rights of African-Americans throughout the history of the United States; I can, however, attempt to show several of those heroes who have impressed me. May GOD and those who are not represented here forgive me and perhaps their souls will move other African-Americans to produce more and more quilts that
will extol their efforts and keep the struggle alive to ensure the ultimate goal of equality for all."

White made this quilt to teach students, family, and friends about important heroes in African-American history. The quilt features appliqued and embroidered portraits of Medgar Evers, Thrugood Marshall, Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman, Frances E.W. Harper, Sojourner Truth, Mary McLeod Bethune, Frederick Douglass, Ralph Bunche, Booker T. Washington, and W.E.B. Dubois.

Photo of Honor First Nations quilt

Honor the First Nations
Pat Courtney Gold
Scappoose, Oregon
Cotton with polyetser batting
69" x 85"
Collection of Michigan State University Museum

Wasco artist Gold, a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts' 2007 National Heritage Fellowship Award, says of this quilt, "I wanted to do a quilt to represent various tribal entities throughout the United States. I could not include all nations, and it was hard picking the art forms on this quilt. Each block represents a different tribal art and/or religion. I
especially wanted to show respect for the elders in a block. I chose the clothing style during transition from the 'traditional ways' to the 'white man' ways. I felt this was a painful time in tribal history, and the strength of the generation was passed to us. I left her face undefined, so that as we look at her, we will each see our grandmothers. Another strong symbol is the turtle. I did put various herbs in it, as do many tribes. The circle of life is whole. I varied it by putting a golden halo around it. It displays the reverence as do the halos around the Christain figures."

The quilt includes: wood mask (Iroquois); beaded flower (Plateau); whale (Alaska); basket design (Plateau); rabbit (Southwest); quote (Iroquois); weaving modern twill; petroglyph (Southwest); Yei figure (Navajo); cornhusk (Nez Perce); quote (Nez Perce), horse (Plains); hand (U.S.); drum (Plains); frog (Northwest); quote (Shawnee); petrogylph (Wasco); quail (Southwest); circle of life (U.S.); elder (U.S.);
quote (Cherokee); basket figure (Wasco); turtle (Midwest); salmon (Northwest); bird (Pueblo); and shield (Alaska).

Photo of Mr. Mandela quilt

Mr. Mandela
Beverly Ann White
Pontiac, Michigan
43 1/2" x 44 1/4"
Collection of Michigan State University Museum, gift of the artist

Of this quilt, White says: "My statement quilts are made as a result of emotion. The inspiration for Mr. Mandela came from the very strong emotions of elation and relief I experienced when he was released from his years of captivity in South Africa." The museum has over forty African-American and African quilts, as well as quilt-related documentary materials, which reflect a wide range of individual styles and traditions found within African and African diasporic communities.

Photo of Rafiki quilt

Rafiki (Friendship)
Carole Harris
Detroit, Michigan, USA
Cotton; machine piecing, hand quilting
35" x 35"
Collection of the Michigan State University Museum; Cuesta Benberry Collection of African American Quilts and Quilt History, 2008:119.20

Carole Harris made and titled this quilt Rafiki (meaning friendship in Swahili) in honor of Nelson Mandela obtaining his freedom. The late quilting historian Cuesta Benberry collected this quilt to further her research on African American quiltmaking. Benberry greatly admired the work of Carole and said of her: "Carole and I have also been friends for a long time. She was the first African American quiltmaker that I knew who made art Quilts. She has never made any other kind. She has always been an original quilt artist, influenced perhaps by her training. She is a Fine Arts graduate from Wayne State University, but she preferred to work with fabric instead of painting."

Photo of Mandela Long Walk to Freedom quilt

Mandela Long Walk to Freedom
Melzina Mazibuko
Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Cotton; hand appliqué, hand embroidery
15 ½” x 21 ¾”
Collection of the Michigan State University Museum, 2010:123.3

Melzina Mazibuko is a charter member of Isiphethu (meaning Fountain in Zulu), a group that began in l999 when women from the communities of Madadeni and Osizweni came together to embroider appliqué images for a Woman’s Day project organized by the Carnegie Art Gallery located in nearby Newcastle, South Africa. This project inspired the women to continue creating and a workshop program was launched in 2000 under the umbrella of the gallery. Women are encouraged to attend mentorship programs where business development and quality control are discussed and they have now exhibited their work nationally and internationally and have won many awards. In this piece Mazibuko depicts South African anti-apartheid activists Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and Oliver Tambo at Robben Island doing manual labor such as breaking stones.

Mandela makes people proud to be who they are… street sweepers to royalty are drawn into his extraordinary aura. Mandela made the idea possible that between black and white people there would be a peaceful growing together. Mandela saw his release not as an end point, but the beginning of a critical phase in South Africa’s march to freedom. Mandela speaks to the people that "I greet you in the name of peace.” - Melzina Mazibuko

Photo of Nelson Mandela's Presence quilt

Nelson Mandela's Presence
Meena Schaldenbrand
Plymouth, Michigan
July 2004
Cotton, decorative thread; thread sketched by machine
20" x 24"
Collection of the Michigan State University Museum, 2008:158.1

This quilt was made for the Michigan Quilt Artist Invitational whose theme was "Exploring Africa." Of this quilt, the artist says, "I greatly admire Mr. Mandela and decided to draw his portrait free motion on the sewing machine."

PHoto of Fearless quilt

Sherry Shine
East Orange, New Jersey, USA
Cotton; fabric paint, machine quilting
46" x 36"
Collection of the Michigan State University Museum, 2011:108.1

Rosa Parks and President Barack Obama are two iconic figures who changed the face of history with the understanding that greatness is never given. it must be earned. Each of these icons stands for the "journey of hope" in all of us and is connected through the many challenges we have faced. Their persistence, courage, and optimism have proved that progress continues to be made and we all have an obligation to stand up for what we believe in. - Carolyn L. Mazloomi, founder of Women of Color Quilters Network, in her Journey of Hope: Quilts Inspired by President Barack Obama (Voyageur Press, 2010)

Pages: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | back to Quilts and Human Rights page