Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies by Olalekan Jeyifous is the second in the Site See: New Views in Old Town annual public art series, which will be on display from March to November 2020.
Jeyifous’ concept frames Alexandria’s African American history through the lens of the city’s industrial and merchant history from the 17th to 20th centuries. Once a prosperous port city that was home to one of the largest domestic slave trading firms in the country, Alexandria was a major center for shipping and manufacturing with an economy inextricably tied to the work of enslaved and free African Americans.
Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies seeks to stitch Alexandria’s story together, featuring symbols that represent Alexandria’s merchant and manufacturing history, including factories, tobacco warehouses, breweries and railways. The ground mural will incorporate African American quilting and textile traditions, which are historically tied to storytelling and oral tradition. When viewed as a whole, the pattern will become an abstract grid or map, with the manufacturing icons appearing throughout. From this colorful and rich surface, four large figures will face the water. Ornate metal profiles will be wrapped in sculptural seating platforms that are illuminated in low light.
“I consider art in the public realm to be a humble and noble endeavor,” said Jeyifous. “It provides an opportunity to bring art to non-traditional places. We can explore our histories, acknowledge mythologies of resilience and resistance, and even ponder the futures of cities and public spaces. My hope is that the artwork resonates in ways that inspire and elicit engagement and dialogue.”