The Pensacola Museum of Art has teamed up with “Our Voices Are Many” to bring the journey along the underground railroad to life through Color In Freedom, on display at the museum through April 11.
The paintings and performances bring the scenes to life in a way a lecture or school assignment on the underground railroad doesn’t. That’s why Mamie Webb Hixon founded “Our Voices Are Many” which combines dance, storytelling, and music to depict and share the history of African Americans.
The performance includes dramatic retellings of journeying on the underground railroad, dancers interpreting the journey, and singing songs like the spiritual "Gospel Plow." The cast changes but the purpose of educating through entertainment and art doesn't.
"We'll have "Color in Freedom" through "Freedom in Song," "Freedom in Words," and "Freedom in Dance," says Hixon. "As you walk through these rooms, with these paintings, you have to connect, in some way, with your ancestors whether you're black or white, because we're all part of that ancestry."
Through the dramatic retelling an actor explains that the underground railroad wasn’t a real railroad but a series of known stops and safe houses that “conducters” like Harriet Tubman would guide slaves through until they reached the promised land. The songs also convey the religious images that were used to compare the enslaved African-Americans with the biblical Israelites and to offer them hope as they sought their own "Promised Land."
The exhibit "Color in Freedom" is comprised of paintings, drawings, and etchings displayed in the large galleries in the downstairs of the Pensacola Museum of Art and the artist, Joseph Holston, has used four movements to tell the story of slavery from capture in Africa to freedom.
The four movements are titled, “The Unknown World”, “Living in Bondage,” “Journey of Escape,” and “Color in Freedom.” The artist uses colors and imagery to emphasize the themes and repeat them like a symphony.
Jodi Gup describes the pieces as "Vibrant watercolors...You will see more blacks and grays, darker images, and then as you move through the four movement you see these beautiful oranges and golds tied in with purples and you get the feeling of light and freedom."
The Color in Freedom exhibit will be on display at the Pensacola Musuem of Art through April 11 while Our voices Our Many will perform Freedom in Word, Freedom In Song, and Freedom in Dance to accompany the exhibition on Saturday February 21 at 2 pm and Saturday, March 21 at 2 p.m.