Rituals of Commemoration (Rituales de Conmemoración, 2014- presente)
A temporary public sculpture
14th Havana Biennial, 2022
Art that engages, raises awareness and builds solidarity.
This iteration of Rituals of Commemoration is the culmination of eight years of work; it began as a gesture of anger and disbelief at the police murder of Michael Brown in August of 2014 and developed into focused research, examination, and inquiry. For the last eight years, I have undertaken the collection, organization, and visualization of injustice making it visible, presenting it to the world as another wake-up call and a denunciation of injustice.
Each one of the bricks that make up the nine columns in the installation represent the more than 1550 African-American and Afro descendants, men, women and youth who from 1979 to December 2021 have lost their lives at the hands of the police in the United States.
Since January 2015, The Washington Post records every fatal shooting in the United States by a police officer in the line of duty; police have shot and killed 6,732 people as of February 2022. Other non-governmental databases such as Fatal Encounters, Mapping Police Violence and The Counted also keep records. Although half of the people killed are Caucasian, Black Americans are killed by police at more than twice the rate of White Americans. Latinos, Native and Indigenous people are also killed by police at a disproportionate rate.
About location and community
Arab immigrant park in Los Sitios, in Centro Habana is one the oldest and most emblematic neighborhoods in Centro Habana. An extremely urbanized area, with a population of about 32,000, a working class and low income community. Today the cultural traditions that most stand out in this neighborhood are Rastafarian, Afro-Caribbean and Bembe, along with others of Haitian origin.
There is a community organization called CABILDO QUISICUABA, through a broad program of education, rehabilitation, sports, religious practices and music, they work to empower the individuals, the family and the collective of peoples living there. They have a local museum, they provide food, breakfast and lunch daily for a number of people. Their moto Justice, peace and love are inseparable values: love is the fruit of peace; and peace is the fruit of justice.
Video and photo curtesy of Probetafilms, photo credits David Garten and Roy Wallace
Special thanks to following individuals and organizations
I am very grateful to the folks who live in and around the park in Centro Habana for their support and solidarity during all the weeks of construction. Especially to the Quisicuaba community project and Dr. Enriquez Aleman. This work would not have been achieved without the work and support of so many people in the community; El Moro, Yayo, Ibarra, Gladys, Joseito, Giyo and Pedro. The bricklayers, Mario, Humberto, Abad, Alberto, Tato, Orly, Giselita and Ale, the CUMBRAL team.
All my family members in Cuba who each in their own way participated and contributed to the success of this work. Especially my sister and niece. Rosie Gordon-Wallace and Roy Wallace whose ongoing support has been invaluable.
I want to thank Ernesto Yoel, director of the Center for the Development of Visual Arts, and Tania Parson, the center's curator, for their support during these months of preparation. Jose and Daniel the installers. Teresita Dominguez Vidal, Vice President of the National Council of Plastic Arts and Norma Rodriguez Delivet, President of the National Council of Plastic Arts and president of the Havana Biennial.
This project was supported, in part, by a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant, by Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator, Lobey Art and Travel, Cumbral SULR and friends of Rituals of Commemoration.