Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Marita Dingus at Seattle Art Museum


200 Women of African Descent

by Marita Dingus

photo from

(this artwork was on exhibit in 2007)

Marita Dingus is a Seattle artist whose multi-media piece "400 Men and 200 Women of African Descent" is currently displayed in the African wing of the Seattle Art Museum.

"400 Men and 200 Women of African Descent" consists of small, doll-like, headless, armless figures constructed of salvaged cloth and other materials. 

Each one is unique; but, being faceless, they lack individual identities.

The artist explains that the male and female figures took a total of one and a half years to make, and that constructing them was her response to visiting Elmina Castle in Ghana, a holding area for African slaves to be transported to the Americas.

The figures, assembled across two corners of one gallery and separated by gender, evoke a visceral response to the suffering endured by people traded as a commodity and kept for months in nearly airless, dungeon-like rooms which were not designed for human habitation, but were originally used for storing ivory and other trade goods.

photo from

Of African descent herself, Dingus is proud to create art that she considers African in nature. 

She exclusively uses cast-off materials in all her work out of concern for the environment, and considers it the artist's role to find new uses for man-made materials that no longer serve their original purpose.

In "400 Men and 200 Women of African Descent," repurposing trash carries a political message as well. 

According to Dingus, "I use discarded materials because I see people of African descent as being used during the era of slavery and then being discarded."