Excerpt from installation video, 2013
In 1913, W.E.B. DuBois successfully tried his hand at producing a theatrical work about the ‘ten thousand year history of the black race.’ His pageant titled The Star of Ethiopia gave the world yet another way of looking at his genius. Mixing inspiration from opera and classical theatre with the stylization of spirituals, DuBois set out to unabashedly educate the masses about the proud and complex history of the black race.
My installation begins with the limited extant photo documentation of the four pageant productions. Taking cues from the multiple Star of Ethiopia scripts found in the University of Massachusetts Credo web database and flowing with the theme of the exhibition, 'DuBois in Our Time,' I created a two-channel multiple abstract video short of an iconic moment found in the pageant. Primarily focusing on the characterization of the ‘Veiled Woman.' This piece is a stylized interpretation of the first part of the pageant. DuBois titled it the 'Gift of Iron.' He establishes the mystical ‘veiled woman’ as a symbol of black womanhood. She presents fire and iron to the “savages” of Africa to afford them a new life.
Embodying the written documentation of the moment, I looked to create a powerful moment in which I incorporated DuBois's love of Wagner (and music), strong female characterization, and public theatrics. Using a contemporary score, I’m offering an interpretation of a moment taken from one of DuBois’s most ambitious work.
Tavia K. David
Torch and technical assistance provided by Pyro-Techniq