The word nigger, once used as derogative term for black people, has over the past few years been reclaimed by the black community as a form of empowerment. One such self-described nigress is Karen Walker, an African-American artist who explores race, gender, sexuality, violence, and identity in her work.
Walker's career took off in 1994, when she created a unique silhouette titled Gone, An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred Between the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart. Representing old southern values of sex and slavery, the piece won her the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's Genius Grant, making Walker the second youngest artist to receive the reward.
Since then, she had continued to interrogate race and gender tensions by creating mysterious shadowy figures that represent characters in American literature, culture, and history. In her latest exhibit at the Camden Arts Centre, she tackles white supremacy and the additional issue of gun culture in the US. Her project covers three gallery spaces, and includes such work as Dust Jackets for the Niggerati, a series of graphite drawings designed in the form of pseudo book covers. Also on show is her shadow play, Fall Frum Grace- Miss Pipi's Blue Tale , which uses cut-out silhouette figures. While her imagery is simple, the messages are bold and unapologetic.
Walker's silhouettes will be on display until the 5th January, and during that time, you can also attend several talks, such as a panel discussion that puts her work in an European context. There will also be talk tours given by Paul Goodwin and Jenni Lomax. On the 23rd October, there will be a trible bill screening of Uncle Tom's Cabin. The 1927 film is an adaptation of an anti-slavery novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe, and will be followed by a documentary about the story, and Kara Walker's Six Miles from Springfield on the Franklin Road. All these events are free, but require booking.