The Provocative Art of Toni Scott

Julianne Jennings

Toni Scott is an American and a citizen of the Muscogee Creek Nation. She also descends from African and European ancestry. As a multimedia artist, she was recently selected for the 2015 Dame Jillian Sackler International Artists Exhibition Program at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archeology at Peking University, Beijing, China. The exhibit is called, DNA Bloodlines The Family of Mankind, and will open May, 2015. About winning the award Scott says, “I felt a unique validation. How often does an African Native American Woman receive an international exhibition?”

The cultural value of her work is what attracted The Sackler Foundation Artist Exhibition Program to Scott― to create open dialog between the work and the viewer, stimulate critical thinking, and bring cross-cultural understanding amongst people. “I was happy to find a home for my work and be given the freedom to express it fully,” she says.

In the United States, her Bloodlines exhibitions wove together the brutal history of slavery, including personal narratives and genealogical information, tracing her ancestry to the late 1600s. Bloodlines has traveled across the United States, notably a three- year solo exhibit (2009-2012) at the California African American Museum. She says, “We all have a history that includes a migration story, a journey, and global cultural influences that have shaped our individual world.”

For China, Scott says she will expand the Bloodlines theme adding new dimensions inspired by recent DNA findings that forge together histories and relationships of Native Americans to the people of Asia and Africa. She asserts, “It’s a perfect platform to discuss the migration of man and genetic relationships and to share my personal DNA findings and revelations of our connections.” In an article written by Daphne R, "DNA Evidence Proves That The First People In China Were Black" supports Scott’ s claim of our shared humanity, “DNA testing proved that the first inhabitants of China were black Africans. The study was conducted by a Chinese DNA specialist named Jin Li and a team of Chinese and other scientists. Li admits that he wasn’t trying to prove this fact, instead he initially wanted to prove that the Chinese evolved from hοmo erectus independently of all humans.” Further, “After collecting more than 12000 DNA samples from 165 different ethnic groups, Li and his team found that early humans belonged to different species but modern humans had descended from the East African species.” Scott adds, “We are a universal family, differences in physical size and pigmentation are the result of geography, food, environment, we are all the same underneath."

The main gallery of the museum will feature a slave boat, a 20 feet by 8 feet by 8 feet floating vessel with images of slaves, flooded with inner light that will cast the images of suffering on the floor below. Viewers will be able to submerge themselves into the lives of Africans by observing the multitude of images that make up the vessel. The museum’s courtyard will have one large and two smaller teepees. Each teepee on the outside will be decorated in traditional Native American style artwork, but the inside will showcase the past, present and future on Native American lives through writings by Native American children and people of all ages. The exhibit will be a celebration of the human spirit and the will to live and prosper in a humane social and multi-cultural world.

Scott graduated from the University of Southern California and received training at the Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design, and the Art Center College of Design. Her works are featured in the African American Museum in Los Angeles and other institutions, and in private collections around the world.

In short she says, “I want people to know their history and celebrate all of who they are. We are not a product of isolation, we are all related. Geographical lines are manmade, cultural influences and exchanges have colored our world for millenniums.”

See Sackler.org for upcoming China exhibition.

Bloodlines can be viewed here.

Julianne Jennings (Nottoway) is an anthropologist.

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