Soul of RVA: New exhibit documents 2020 in Richmond through unique pieces of art

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — From protests to the removal of Confederate monuments, 2020 was a historic year for Richmond. Now, a group of local artists is using their work to tell that story in a new exhibit at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia.

“It was an awakening for everyone,” said Martha Jones Carter, one of the artists behind the new exhibit. “This artwork is to express emotions and feelings about everything that was going on in that time.”

On one side of the exhibit is a collection of pictures entitled “Unsay Their Names.” This collection, shot by Derek Kannemeyer, brings to life the events leading up to the removal of several confederate statues in the City of Richmond.

“‘Unsay Their Names’ is about a moment when Richmond came to deal with its history,” Kannemeyer said. “For a lot of us, it was a necessary moment.”

Kannemeyer says he started out as a witness to the events, but quickly realized the magnitude of the moment and decided to capture history.

“I saw how moving it was to see Black people visiting the Lee monument for example. I saw the emotions on those people’s faces and I just felt the need to record it,” he said. “I wasn’t photographing the statues themselves, but the people responding and the community as a whole.”

On the other side of the exhibit is a collection of quilts from the Kuumba Afrikan American Quilt Guild of Richmond. Each quilt is the artists’ interpretation of how 2020 impacted the community in regard to racial injustice.

Carter showed 8News a quilt she made called “Blood Stained and Tattered American Flag.” On it, she says, are the pictures of more than 80 people killed in police incidents across the country.

“Making this quilt was very painful,” she said. “I had to research and find each person and read their story. A lot of the images are of young people and their killing was just senseless, so it was painful putting this together.”

Other artists from the Guild stitched images of John Lewis, George Floyd, and Robert E. Lee monument.

Overall, both Kannemeyer and Carter hope this exhibit can be a teaching moment for the community.

“I’m hoping the community sees that this is not a minority issue…it’s us as a city coming together and affirming that we need to move on,” Kennemeyer said.

For more information on visiting the exhibit, click here. https://www.blackhistorymuseum.org/

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