Artprize Entry- the Story of Ubuntu - Erica Millbrooks


“It’s not about you, it's not about me, it’s about we”

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Using color, prints and patterns from my scrap-bin-- gleaned from past larger quilts-- I use fabric as art to tell a meaningful story of family, community and history.

As I picked out pieces and sewed them together I was  inspired by the dominant Ubuntu symbol circle surrounded by 3 smaller circles which represent that we are connected. 

I also recalled the story told by an anthropologist who devised a game contest among children of an African village. Whoever reached a stash of food first, that was placed a distance away could have all of it to themselves. 

In response, the children gathered in a circle, put their heads together, their arms around one another and all ran to the food arriving at exactly the same time. They then joyfully sat together  eating the food. Astonished, the anthropologist asked why they did that. 

One boy replied “Ubuntu!” “How can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?”

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Ubuntu is the belief we are defined by our compassion and kindness towards others. 

Not only does this quilt weave that symbol throughout, it is the basis of the entire shape of the piece and I hope to inspire us to embrace the spirit of Ubuntu today. 

–Erica Millbrooks

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This piece has been entered into the Grand Rapids ArtPrize as part of the African American Art Musuems Fab 5 Fabric Artists 2021