Kara Elizabeth Walker
American, born 1969
This small sculpture is part of a series of editioned works based on a maquette artist Kara Walker created while developing her Katastwóf Karavan, a wagon-mounted, fully functional calliope (a steam-powered musical instrument resembling an organ). The final work pipes a composition written by the American jazz pianist Jason Moran (born 1975) inspired by the songs and sounds associated with the long history of African American protest music. Walker originally designed the Katastwóf Karavan for Algiers Point in New Orleans, which was used as holding center for African captives before they were ferried across the river to be sold into a lifetime of slavery. The artist titled the work after the Haitian Creole word for “catastrophe” as an allusion to the subjugation, violence, and humiliation of life for African Americans in the Antebellum South, silhouetted scenes from which in Walker’s distinctive style frame all four sides of the work.