Kara Walker's Early Installations As Counter-Narratives To Uncle Tom's Cabin And Gone With The Wınd
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Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1851) and Gone with the Wind (1936) still hold a prominant place in the American public memory. The first novel describes the immoral and unacceptable aspects of slavery in great length and is considered to be explicit support for the abolitionist cause in the US. Meanwhile, the second novel foregrounds a love story happening during the Civil War and Reconstruction Era in the South where people experience the loss of not only the war but also the idealized way of life in which everybody, including the slaves, was content. These novels are vastly different in terms of the ideas they want to convey, yet they were both instrumental in perpetuating negative stereotypes of African Americans. These novels are master narratives, and the readers take such texts for granted and do not feel compelled to question their authenticity. For the contemporary artist Kara Walker, creating counter-narratives is a way to deal with the repercussions of these two novels in her two early installations: The End of Uncle Tom and the Grand Allegorical Tableau of Eva in Heaven (1997) and Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred b'tween the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart (1995). In these installations, Walker masterfully links her art to the nineteenth century, a time period depicted in the novels in which slavery still existed, and presents alternative and disturbing panoramas of slavery conveniently absent in the novels. The viewers are often uncomfortable about the whole experience. They remember a point in history that is not palatable. For Walker, this is the only way in which the conventional historical narratives be challenged, and viewers feel compelled to confront the uncomfortable truths of slavery.