Southern Black Women's Canebrake Gardens: Responding to Taylor's Call for Aesthetic Reconstruction

Debates in Aesthetics 15 (2) (2020)
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In this response, I suggest that Black southern women in the U.S. have always been central to the “reconstruction” that Taylor identifies as a central theme of Black aesthetics. Building on his allusions to Alice Walker and Jean Toomer, I explore Walker’s tearful response (in In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose (1983) to Toomer’s Cane (2011). Walker identifies their mothers’ and grandmothers’ informal arts of storytelling and gardening as the hidden roots of both her and Toomer’s work. I suggest that Walker’s tears function to water her mother’s (and othermothers’) gardens, thereby sustaining southern Black women’s foundational work in reconstruction. Through telling their stories and planting gardens, along with crafting meals, designing clothes, and designing and decorating homes, southern Black women have always been necessary to Black aesthetics—filling worlds with aesthetically-rich and energetic artworks that Black formal artists such as Walker channel and transfigure into their formal artistic productions.
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