Based on a true story, my "TROPAS" painting has a special, inspiring and creative space in my heart. By now we've been exhausted with grim slave stories. As if African ancestry started on a plantation. "Our history did not begin in chains," said Malcolm X. Rather, the African lineage traces back to castles and royalty. And like most stories of colonization, it was captured and stripped.
Long story short, in the 1500's black women forcibly taken to Columbia would use cornrows to create maps leading out of slavery and into freedom. Larger braids were called Tropas, meaning there were troops lining that path. This would help ensure safety. Smaller braids and partings would indicate that the rest of the route was clear. This was genius given the obvious lack of maps and technology.
My reiteration of this story is about a character named Love(her) and the creation of the heart as an iconic symbol. Destined to escape inhumane conditions Love had a heart etched into her hair by an elder in the village. Too tired to run away herself, the elder explained just how to follow the map.
Excited and refusing to leave without her partner, Love presented the idea to, lets say, Luther, and they devised a plan. At first Luther was hesitant and feared the consequences. What if they ran into troops along the way? Death. But Love gave him a spark of motivation. There was fearlessness in her eyes. According to old tales, its been done before. He ran his fingers along the thick braids on her head, and paid specific attention to the side where the two curved lines intersected. Fresh braids and the first sign of sunrise is all they needed. Around the bend, around the bend. To Teamwork. To Freedom. To Love.