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Postmodern Madonnas

It’s provocative, it’s disturbing, it’s cheeky. American artist Ayana V. Jackson explores a variety of themes in her latest show at Gallery MOMO, entitled Projection Surface. In her show, Jackson explores what it means to be a black body in today’s world. One part of the show consists of what she calls “Maria de Latte” (Mary of the Milk) images, a biting commentary framed in Renaissance-inspired glory of the Madonna and Child iconography, but this time the Madonna figure is herself, representing black womanhood, and the child is a white baby. “A black woman holding a white baby is a very normal thing to see in this country. That led me to consider the idea of the nanny, wet-nurse, surrogate… and what it means to care for someone else’s child. To be a mother to someone without the acknowledgement of the role,” Jackson explains. The images also allude to religious beliefs, how the mother of God is regarded in the Protestant and Catholic faiths. Protestants, she says, see Mary as “simply a vessel for God’s child to come through, and with the exception of the annunciation, is omitted from having any real credit for her influence in the development of Jesus. Much like the nanny doesn’t generally have any formal role in the child’s life. She is simply a body acting out a function.” In Catholicism, however, the Virgin Mary is a very pivotal figure. “So borrowing from my experience with both sides of the Christian faith (and the multiple ways of seeing Mary), I chose Maria de Latte as patron saint of the nannies and wet nurses.” As Jesus himself once pronounced, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." Ayana V. Jackson's Biography Courtesy of Gallery MOMO: Ayana V. Jackson (1977) received her BA from Spelman College and studied under Khaterina Sieverding at the University of Arts Berlin (Germany). She has exhibited her work in association with Gallery MOMO (Johannesburg, RSA), Rush Arts Gallery (USA), A Gathering of the Tribes (USA), Galerie Peter Herrmann (Germany), San Francisco Mexican Museum (USA) the Franklyn H. Williams CCC/African Diaspora Institute (USA) and CulturesFrance (FR). She has received grants from the Inter America Foundation and Puma Creative, the latter supporting her participation in the 2009 Bamako African Photography Biennial. Public art exhibitions include Round 32 of Project Rowhouses (USA) in Houston’s 3rd ward.  Her photography can be found in publications including the exhibition catalogue for her series ''African by Legacy, Mexican by Birth,'' "Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society" (Columbia University) and ''Camera Austria''. She has lectured and conducted workshops at university and arts institutions in the US, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. Projection Surface is on from 25 August - 19 September 2011 at Gallery MOMO, 52 Seventh Avenue, Parktown North, Joburg. 011-327-3427 gallerymomo.com   Text: Bambina Olivares Wise Image: Gallery MOMO