The art of Black motherhood: Project tells stories from around the country
VCU School of Social Work Assistant Professor Nicole Corley, Ph.D., has always been drawn to storytelling, and a recent project introduced collage as a forum for those stories and to build connectivity across the country.
Dr. Corley’s “And, Ain’t I a Mother?” explored the beauty, vulnerability and strength of Black mothers and the institution of Black motherhood, drawing on the stories and artistic talents of 26 Black mothers around the country.
“I’ve always loved stories, hearing people share their lives,” she says. “You know how you just have some people who like to sit at the feet of people and listen to their stories? That’s me inherently.
“Collage in many ways is like a metaphor for Black motherhood,” Corley continued. “When collage came on the scene, it was not considered formal art. And, similarly, Black motherhood is deeply political. Black mothers often have had to face and contend with deficit notions about their mothering practices. The process of collaging and sourcing materials allows mothers to self-define and tell their stories in their own unique way.”
Corley’s call for participants drew interest – and also some apprehension.
“A lot of the mothers said, ‘Oh, but I’m not an artist, I’m not creative,’ ” she says. “I had to remind them: You’re a Black mother. You are the ultimate creative!”
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