The Affrilachian Artist Project
Through an array of fragments, a pattern revealed itself. The Affrilachian Poets were the WORD, the Carolina Chocolate Drops were the SONG; yet sustained attention has not been given to the visual artists who create the OBJECTS and IMAGES of the people and the places evoked by similar life experiences. A third harvest should flourish in this fertile soil.
As Cochran mentions in on the project’s Kickstarter page, The Affrilachian Artist Project adds to “recent efforts celebrating the history of Appalachia [that] reveal the fact that the region’s inhabitants are as diverse as its terrain.” Organizations such as Appalshop and The Hillville have expanded our understanding of this landscape; below, Cochran offers the four misconceptions about Appalachia illuminated in Jeff Biggers’ book The United States of Appalachia:
Biggers identifies four paradoxical images that have persisted about the region. The pristine Appalachia, though it is touted a vacationer’s playground according to slick promotional brochures, it is a battleground of fierce clashes between environmentalists and commercial interests over timber, coal and a number of natural resources; Anglo-Saxon Appalachia, once defined by Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary as mountain region of “white natives,” despite its role as a crossroads of indigenous cultures as well as vast immigrant and African American migrations for centuries; backwater Appalachia, a “strange land of peculiar people” caricatured in thousands of popular culture formats from comic books to feature films, though the region has produced some of the most important thinkers and creators in the nation (including African Americans like Carter G. Woodson who established the first official celebration of Black History, Booker T. Washington, Bessie Smith, Nina Simone, Bill Withers, Nikki Giovanni and Henry Louis Gates to name a few) and pitiful Appalachia, the poster region of rural poverty, regardless of the tremendous revenue generated by its mineral resources, timber and labor force in the mines, mills and factories, and today’s tourist industry.