by Adam Smith via metro.co.uk
There is a museum like no other in Philadelphia. You would not have heard it, it is not listed anywhere and there are no signs from the motorway. Only the hand carved wooden sign in the garden hinted that the Victorian house was not like any other home in the world – and the woman who opened the door had the smile of someone who knew she was about to amaze you.
For years Vashti Dubois was sick of not seeing any images of black girls or women in museums and art galleries, so three years ago she decided to do something about it. The 56-year-old turned her house into The Colored Girls Museum, celebrating everything about black women and their place in the universe. Standing in the hallway, which screams with colour due to every inch being painted, she said: ‘If things ain’t right you got to make them right, and if you can change things, you gotta change them.’
After opening one room to the public, she decided to turn her bedroom, the bathroom, the kitchen and her son’s bedroom into art galleries. Dubois said: ‘There are a lot of museums about a lot of different things, so we thought there should be one about the colored girl because there are no places that look at their experiences. We want to show who she is in her day-to-day life as a sister, a lover, a friend, an artist, a victim. We want to show that if there were no coloured girls, the system would collapse.’
As well as the museum’s collection of artefacts, paintings, dolls, textiles and sculptures, artists take over rooms and spaces for art installations. At first Dubois sought the help of artists she knew personally – but word soon spread, and soon she was being contacted by some of the world’s best upcoming artists.
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And unlike most museums, this is personal. There are no walking tours headsets, no bored-looking security guards, and not a gift shop in sight.
So to enjoy culture for culture’s sake in Vashti’s home felt like an honor.
The Colored Girls Museum is a memoir museum, which honours the stories, experiences, and history of black girls. And it is Vashti’s story too.
She said: ‘Colored girls are an important part of the universe. You see us walking down the street. Everyday colored girls. You walk past us, but here we are in all of our extraordinary splendor doing the things that we do to make this world a great place to live.
‘We aren’t all Michelles (Obama) and Beyoncés. But look at how we are holding everything together for families across the world.’
When visitors arrive, Vashti explains to them that she started collecting paintings and sculptures three years ago after a personal tragedy. Then she takes them a tour of the house.
‘She distinguishes herself by exclusively collecting, preserving, honoring, and decoding artifacts pertaining to the experience and “her story” of colored girls,’ Vashti said.
I loved how she refers to the museum as ‘she’, as if it were a person – not bricks and mortar with stuff in it, but a constant living, changing being. You don’t get that kind of chat at the National Trust.
The first museums in America were in private people’s homes, but with federal funding giant organisations like The Smithsonian cornered the market. Vashti gets no money from the Government.
The museum is open on Sundays, and every Sunday morning she washes all of the surfaces with vinegar and water, and burns sage, frankincense, and myrrh to ensure the ‘energy’ is right. Some Sundays more than 100 people turn up, the majority of them black women. From the reviews, visitors love it and end up seeing Vashti as ‘a BFF, not a museum owner’.
The former theatre actress’ bedroom inspired the first major exhibition – A Good Night’s Sleep. Several artists contributed their work, and the show attracted around 1,000 visitors.
Vashti said: ‘What does every colored girl want? A good night’s sleep. It is so important for our soul, our health, our being, so I was delighted with the various artists’ interpretations of this.’
To read full article, go to: Woman turns home into museum dedicated to black women | Metro News