Solange Knowles Ferguson on Black identity

The American singer-songwriter explores Black womanhood, inspired by the artwork of Betye Saar

Image of Solange Knowles
A black and white photography of the artist Betye Saar

Courtesy of Betye Saar and Roberts & Tilton, Los Angeles, California © Fidel Danieli

Following her recent album A Seat at the Table 2016, which explores womanhood and racial struggles in America today, we invited Solange Knowles Ferguson to respond to our current exhibition Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power.

Inspired by a photograph of artist Betye Saar and the role she played in the Black arts movement in the 1970s, Solange reflects on Black womanhood and the themes of Black identity within her own work. Read Solange’s words below and explore the interactive titled Seventy States 2017, to discover more about the singer's inspirations and creative process.

Find out more about Betye Saar and her work at Soul of Nation, on a Tate Modern until 22 October 2017.

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Solange Knowles Ferguson discusses the project

There would be no hesitation should I be asked to describe myself today. I am a Black woman. A woman yes, but a Black woman first and last. Black womanhood has been at the root of my entire existence since birth.

During the creation of A Seat at the Table and my deeper exploration into my own identity, I experienced many different states of being, and mind throughout my journey. I mourned. I grieved. I raged. I felt fear and triumph while working through some of the trauma I set out to heal from. The state I so greatly wanted to experience, but that never arrived was optimism. I couldn't answer my own question, if I had a responsibility as an artist to also express optimism in the midst of working through so much of my own healing.

Black womanhood has been at the root of my entire existence since birth.

Solange Knowles

I decided to do this through a visual language. I wanted to create this language to help me to get closer to the balance I yearned to be closer to and express. I wanted to create a meditation and mediation using movement, repetition, symmetry, color theory, landscape and scenography, as my own individualised protest.

The following interactive, in collaboration with artist Carlota Guerrero, contains some of the early concepts that helped shape and mold the visuals for the Cranes in the Sky and Don't Touch My Hair, as well as unused concepts and scenes from the process using footage co- directed by Alan Ferguson. It also includes a piece titled we sleep in our clothes, (because we're warriors of the night) 2017. I created this at Tate Modern with Guerrero featuring Capsules (NBP x me-you) 2010 by Ricardo Basbaum. This is directed by Alan Del Rio Ortiz. There are also two untitled poems which I've written, dated 2 June 2017.

Please note there may be a delay in playing the videos in this interactive.

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