From the Deep: In the Wake of Drexciya

Ayana V. Jackson | Smithsonian National Museum of African Art

“From the Deep: In the Wake of Drexciya with Ayana V. Jackson” at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art marks Ayana V. Jackson's first major institutional exhibition.


Known for the deftness with which she confronts the racialization and sexualization of Black bodies, Jackson’s exhibition departs from her previous practice focusing on the historic archive of images of women of color with all-new works of speculative fiction that bring to life an immersive, feminist and sacred aquatopia inspired by the legend of Drexciya.


In the 1990s, Drexciya, a Detroit-based techno duo made up of James Stinson and Gerald Donald, imagined an underwater kingdom populated by the children of pregnant women who had been thrown overboard or jumped into the ocean during the Middle Passage. Drexciya’s founding myth has inspired numerous artists, among them Jackson, who uses her own body in her lens-based works to ask that people reckon with the brutal history that cast these humans to the sea while simultaneously envisioning a word of powerful, resilient women.


 “Jackson’s artworks are more than just visually stunning,” said Karen Milbourne, senior curator and acting head of knowledge production at the National Museum of African Art. “They honor generations of survivors while not shying away from the horror and suffering of the transatlantic trafficking in enslaved Africans. They demand that we address our shared past and acknowledge sacred powers. Her vision opens a new way of seeing the world.”

March 21, 2023