Photo by Chuck Choi
On display in the ICA Watershed Harbor Room is a project by Boston-based artist Stephen Hamilton highlighting the generations-long tradition of indigo dyeing in West Africa too often ignored in the accounting of early American history. Included is Hamilton’s painting Owners of the Earth (2020), a richly layered mixed-media work that refers to traditional artforms and philosophies from the Yoruba people in West Africa. The work is accompanied by a description of the unrecognized historical contributions of West Africa to indigo use in the Americas and educational materials depicting indigo dying techniques that the artist adopted during his research in southwestern Nigeria. Hamilton brings these histories—referenced in Firelei Baez’s monumental Watershed installation currently on view—to life through words, images, and textiles.