Barbara Dewayne Chase-Riboud (American, born 1939)
bronze with silk (rope tassels)
12 1/2 in. x 13 1/2 in. x 13 1/2 in. (31.75 cm x 34.29 cm x 34.29 cm)
Bequest of William H. Alexander, 2003.11.24. © Barbara Chase-Riboud
A visual artist, poet, novelist, and sculptor, Barbara Chase-Riboud’s body of work has been described by curator Hans Ulrich Obrist as a “protest against forgetting.” Zanzibar #3 is no exception. For more than five decades, Chase-Riboud has created monumental abstract forms with a deep and nuanced understanding of history, identity, and sense of place. Evocative of an elaborate headdress, Zanzibar #3 is one of at least six known works in a series named after the East African island in the Indian Ocean that was a hub for the Arab slave trade, which thrived from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. Her Zanzibar series was inspired by her poem “Why Did We Leave Zanzibar?” (1969-1970), which meditates on the consequences of the slave trade and enslaved people’s history of resistance. One verse reads:
Why did we leave Zanzibar?
Sweet fragrant mango-stenched beach,
Breasts pressed flat against steamed sand,
Seeping through sieve-like flesh,
Carrying carats of ancestor dust,
Rattling like pearls in oyster shells.