Kara Walker (American, born 1969)
bound volume of offset lithographs and five laser-cut, pop-up silhouettes
9 1/4 x 8 1/4 x 5/8 in. (23.5 x 20.96 x 1.59 cm)
Gift of The Peter Norton Family Christmas Project, 2014.1.4.1. © Kara Walker
Taking the form of a children’s pop-up book, Freedom: A Fable transforms Kara Walker’s monumental cut-paper silhouettes into a hand-held object. The work’s title is a double entendre. The fable is not only the book’s form but also its politics—namely, the dark irony of the promise deferred of freedom, amid the failures of Reconstruction. The viewer holds the narrative in their hands, literally controlling the movement of bodies and scenes that animate the dark history of the American Civil War and its aftermath, and the story of one woman’s hope. Freedom follows the thoughts and actions of a newly emancipated woman about to embark to her new world, in this case Liberia. In the passage presented here, the woman contemplates her relationship to Africans she will encounter, dreaming of a sense of belonging in the new land.