Excerpt from "Simone Leigh’s Assembly of Black Feminist Creativity in Venice Left Me in Awe," by Folasade Ologundudu, in Artnet, October 21, 2022. Read full article.
"In what is sure to be remembered as a historic moment that honored Black woman’s labor, creativity, and intellect, dozens of scholars, thought leaders, educators, writers, curators, authors, and artists from across the African diaspora communed in Venice last week for artist Simone Leigh’s symposium, 'Loophole of Retreat.' The program included talks, film screenings, dance performances, music, panel discussions, and more. Over three emotional days, from the perch of my home office in New York—and at times, my local Soho House—I watched the livestream, engulfed in the feeling of being seen, heard, and perhaps finally understood in a way I’d never quite been before—in a way only a Black woman could understand.
Taking its name from a section of Harriet Jacobs’s 1861 narrative Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, the symposium was guided by five overarching themes, or 'key directives:' 'Maroonage,' 'Manual,' 'Magical Realism,' 'Medicine,' and 'Sovereignty.' It unearthed a long legacy of scholarship, free thought, wild imaginings, and the freedom Black women have continuously worked to build for themselves despite centuries of racialized and gendered oppression.
'The labor of Black women is often made invisible,' author, social media star, and Pace gallery associate director Kimberly Drew told me, commenting afterwards on the remarkable experience of the weekend. 'This obscuring of our rigor, scholarship, and dedication makes it seem like we haven’t been here. During these three days, I left feeling far from alone, inspired in every moment never to take for granted what happens when Black women come together.'
Curator and choreographer Rashida Bumbray organized the event, with Saidiya Hartman and Tina Campt. And from the moment that Bumbray’s voice flowed through my computer screen, singing out 'good morning everybody' to the audience, I knew this weekend would be filled with claiming strength through sisterhood, and finding empowerment in the ethos of 'doing it ourselves' (as trail-blazing Black gallerist Linda Goode Bryant puts it in a text currently on view at MoMA for a show celebrating her Just Above Midtown gallery)."