FROM HERE I SAW WHAT HAPPENED AND I COULD NOT UNDERSTAND
Affectionately nick named "the Obama Skirt Project," this 365 day performance injected African political fabrics into black American communities as a way of processing the changes (in oneself and in society) that come with the cultural milestone of having one's first black president. The score was performed by Cousins from July 19, 2009 - July 18, 2010 primarily in BedStuy – an historically Afro-American and Caribbean neighborhood with an increasing population of African immigrants. The fabrics were printed by companies in Nigeria, Ghana, Mali, South Africa, and Tanzania to commemorate the US' election of its first black president. Although fabrics like these are often printed in these countries to commemorate local elections (elections which almost always result in black leaders), printing them for a political figure from the other side of the globe speaks to the impact Barack Obama's election had on the global black community. They are remarkable artifacts in and of themselves. Cousins collected several and worked with local African and Afro-American designers to transform them in to skirts and other clothing. She then wore the resulting garments everyday for a year -until she and the black folks around her had begun to see both the fabrics and the concept of having a black president as normal.
Although Cousins was repeatedly encouraged to take a photo a day, she opted to document the project by writing a series of short performance art scores which convey specific thoughts or emotions she experienced that year. You can follow the evolution of this work-in-progress series here.
Fun Fact: The project is named after Carrie Mae Weem's "From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried" a body of work created in the early 1990's around the same time Cousins took the trip to Senegal which inspired her interest in African political fabrics. You can use Weem's work as a starting point for understanding the idea of shifting perspectives as well as the specific time periods which are key to Cousins’ project.
Below: Cousins and fellow artist Shani Peters shares how fabrics printed for Senegal's 1993 election inspired the project. Borough of Manhattan Community College. New York, NY. 2011