The Flag is Bleeding – 8 June 2020
Here is a quilt, a medium used to make items of comfort. This quilt is no comforter. The quilt consists of two images superimposed and related. The flag of the USA bleeds from the red strips. On the left a black mother holds her two little children close to protect them. They are naked, the mother bleeds from her body. What is the violence that has been done to this woman that make her children unsafe? The bleeding flag and the bleeding body correspond, and so we ask – should the USA be a mother to all her children? What kind of care should a nation give to its citizens. The distribution of violence, onto some in particular, is an affront to both motherhood and nationhood.
The quilt was made by African-American artist Faith Ringgold. The Flag is Bleeding #2 (1997) is canvas painted with acrylic, with a pieced border. Ringgold was born in Harlem in 1930 at a time of civil unrest. Her parental home was a place of creativity, participating in the Harlem Renaissance. A lifelong campaigner for the inclusion of black artists in major galleries, in 1971 Ringgold was part of a protest at the Whitney, New York, demanding that half the works on show be by women.
For a lock-down activity, watch the interview with Faith on Youtube (Faith Ringgold in conversation: Tate Talks), where she speaks about art, activism and quilting.
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer for the Human Family (Book of Common Prayer, TEC, p. 815)