JAC Talk with artist Jean-Marc Superville Sovak and historian, Jamestown resident Peter Fay to discuss this research-driven, poignant piece of art.
Over the past twenty years, Fay has poured over Rhode Island historical archives, uncovering unknown and overlooked people and stories. Superville Sovak found Fay’s work online in a research piece created for the Rhode Island Slave History Medallion Project. The connection between researcher and artist was made.
Superville Sovak offers, “This piece is a combination of sculpture and storytelling that seeks to visualize unwritten histories rooted in a region that was acutely shaped by the contours of colonialism’s triangular trade in bodies whose voices and names have often remained unheard.”
The overall composition of the sculpture’s steel panel is borrowed from an 18th century engraving depicting the flight of Mary of Modena (the illegitimate wife of King James II, eponym of Jamestown). The faces of the figures from the original engraving are replaced with stylized versions of masks traditionally worn by the matriarchs of what is known as the Sande Society, an intertribal fellowship of women from Sierra Leone, where the six women are thought to have originated. The names of the six women, Yallah, Morandah, Mowoorie, Simboh, Burrah and Yearie, are displayed along with their appraised value (an amount equivalent to 25-40 acres of land).
Karen Conway, JAC Exhibition Director offers, “The Jamestown Arts Center was honored to have Jean-Marc’s sculpture “Six of the First” in our most recent Outdoor Arts Biennial exhibition, as his artwork is both beautiful and powerful, bringing a high level of creativity grounded in compelling histories. We are pleased to announce the promise of the purchase of the piece with the intention of finding it a permanent home in a public space. Jean-Marc is not only a gifted storyteller through his art, but also in-person. I, for one, look forward to hearing about the artistic process of bringing Peter Fay’s research to artistic fruition.”