Insight News

Feb 09th

Baring our soles

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ester-osayande---middle“Nobody knows my story and nobody’s walked in my shoes,” are the words that came to Verlene Green’s mind when a friend asked her to attend the Sister Stories Shoe Project a few weeks ago at the Minnesota African American History Museum. 

“I didn’t know what to expect,” said the 57-year-old Minneapolis Public Schools assistant principal. But Green was intrigued when her friend told her that they would be sharing their shoe stories.

Sister Stories Shoe Project is a four-part art series workshop sponsored by Obsidian Art. The project gives women the opportunity to bare their souls through art, which happens to take on the form of a shoe.

“We’re trying to acknowledge the weight that women have to carry as they walk the world,” said Roderic Southall who works with both Obsidian Art and the Minnesota African American History Museum.

“Going with the theme of migration,” said the 45-year-old “we thought we’d take shoes, have women in conversation about stories of their lives and transition and create an art exhibition from it.”

Led by visual artist and Minnesota native Ester Osayande, women shared their stories and created distinct shoes that visually shared their past, present and future. The heel of the shoe represents the past, life lessons learned to shape the present are the body of the shoe and the future is the toe.

photo-1photo-2“I don’t care who you are you’ve got a story,” said Osayande, who has learned not to pressure workshop attendees to tap into their creative side. “I convince them that they can just do this through conversation and before you know it they’re like ‘look at what I did, this is so cool.’”

Osayande didn’t have to strike up much conversation to get Jazzalette Wandrick excited about decorating her shoe. The young woman said her creative nature made it easy for her to uncover her artistic direction.

“I haven’t been through too much of a life journey, but I can say I’ve had a pretty adventurous life for a 23-year-old,” said Wandrick, whose shoe described her premature birth, artistic childhood, love for education and motherhood.

Visual artist, Bernadette Roberts said workshops and events like this one give generations of African-American women both young and old the opportunity share their wisdom.

“Part of my reason for being here I know is to do art,” said the self proclaimed woman of wisdom, “but its to tell the story and pass the legacy to the on-lookers and the young generation that they are totally clueless about.”

These thoughts stem from Roberts’ own experience growing up in the Twin Cities and the women she has came across through work.

“I think today’s young group, young women especially up here are out of touch with their divine spirit,” said Roberts. “We as older women need to figure out a way to connect with our young women and instill in them their values and their worth.”

Roberts is not alone in her sentiments. Osayande too sees the importance of praising Black women and showcasing them in a positive light, which the shoe project intends to do by sharing their stories.

The project has two more workshop sessions coming up, one on October 12 held at UROC from 9 am - 1pm and another on the last Saturday of the month at the Pillsbury Community Center, where pieces from the workshops will be on display starting this month until December.

Though Green was hesitant about sharing her story, she found joy in the opportunity. She chose to use vibrant colors to represent her faith, love and happiness. Green even shared her positive views on the color black.

“Black for me is a fun neutral color,” Green said, “you can put it with anything.”

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