In Conditions of Fresh Water: An Artistic Exploration of Environmental Racism
February 27, 2017
With their project and resulting exhibition—In Conditions of Fresh Water—artist Torkwase Dyson and attorney/environmental scientist Danielle Purifoy explore environmental racism based on their collaborative documentary research with citizens in two North Carolina and Alabama counties.
Black towns and communities in Alamance (NC) and Lowndes (AL) Counties date back to the post-Civil War era, when free blacks across the South and beyond established places of their own to distance themselves from white terrorism and to build their own economic, social, and political institutions.
The land on which they settled was often undesirable to white property interests. Many of these communities still lack access to viable wastewater infrastructure, threatening residents’ health, local water quality, and capacity for future economic development.
Grassroots activists in both counties continue fighting to attain these basic services in the 21st century.
During the summer of 2016, Dyson and Purifoy worked and traveled in Studio South Zero, a mobile solar-powered artist workspace built by Dyson with recycled materials, conducting interviews and documenting these historic black communities. The exhibition features selections of the resulting art—photographs, drawings, paintings, and writing—that was inspired by these places and their people, histories, power struggles, and victories.
Opening event: Thursday, March 2: 6 p.m. reception; 7 p.m. panel with Torkwase Dyson, Danielle Purifoy, Omega and Brenda Wilson (West End Revitalization Association, Alamance County), and Catherine Coleman Flowers (Lowndes County)
For more about the project:
Dyson and Purifoy’s community partners for In Conditions of Fresh Water: the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise and the West End Revitalization Association. Duke University sponsors and supporters: Center for Documentary Studies, Council for the Arts, Nicholas School of the Environment, Department of African and African American Studies, Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute, and the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic.