Life can shape death, just as death can shape life. And it is the balance between the two where the soul can find affirmation.
That sentiment took shape in a vivid display of defiance, strength and pride during an event this fall celebrating the opening of artist Fahamu Pecou’s exhibition DO or DIE: Affect, Ritual, Resistance at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art. In a procession along Calhoun Street from the Charleston Maritime Center to the Halsey Institute, Pecou’s exploration of the state of black existence took shape through the African spiritual tradition of Yoruba/Ifa ritual. Punctuating the ceremony was a stop at Emanuel A.M.E. Church, where nine black worshippers were gunned down during a racially motivated massacre in 2015.
Frustrated by the pervasive images depicting violence and death within the black community, Pecou sought to change that narrative by asking a pointed question: “Under the looming threat of death, how might we inspire life?”
DO or DIE answers that query through performance, paintings, drawings and video that elevate the black experience by offering an understanding of the balance between life and death. And in so doing, Pecou reminds us of the never-ending resilience of the human spirit.