Faith Ringgold: Publishing on Cloth

That’s Not Your Story: Faith Ringgold Publishing on Cloth

PARSE Journal issue 11

During a public dialogue in 2019 African-American artist Faith Ringgold described her original publisher’s disappointment that the biography she had written did not recount experiences of subjugation – experiences Ringgold suspected were an expectation of her gender and race. This ‘rejection’ precipitated Ringgold’s turn to the textile as an alternative surface upon which she could publish. After hearing Ringgold recount this experience, I found a new appreciation for her story quilts, exemplified in works such as Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemima? (1983), Slave Rape Story Quilt (1985) and The Purple Quilt (1986), which mark a particular phase in her career. The effectiveness of Ringgold’s insistence that her quilts be understood as art rather than craft remains unclear. What can be acknowledged is that these textiles provided a useful, and ultimately successful, route to publishing narratives drawn from her experience and imagination which defy the narrative expectations of her generation of black women artists and writers.