SURFACE MAGAZINE: Looking Back on Take Five Inside the retreat in the U.S. Virgin Islands that aims to commemorate the

Tiffany Crawford, Surface Magazine , January 16, 2017

Last month, in the days following Art Basel Miami Beach, the inaugural edition of Take Five played out over five days in St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. The location, once a hub of the slave trade, was appropriate, as the gathering aimed to commemorate the African diaspora. All too often, slavery is spoken of nonchalantly as a dark truth in American history. The event asked viewers to remember the human experience of slavery through powerful visual art and performances.


Organized by New York-based art advisor and curator Alaina Simone, Take Five featured New York-based artists David Antonio Cruz and Rashaad Newsome; local artists Oceana James, Kharis Kennedy, and La Vaughn Belle; and Copenhagen-based artist Jeannette Ehlers.

The view from inside Fort Christiansvaern in Christiansted, St. Croix, as captured by photographer Wyatt Gallery.

“Whip it Good” by Copenhagen-based artist Jeannette Ehlers. The performance piece re-enacts the brutal punishment used on slaves by their owners.

Buildings in Christiansted.

Outside artist La Vaughn Belle’s “The House That Freedom Built.” In this social practice piece, Belle restored a house formerly owned by a lineage of free black women during slavery dating back to the 1700s.

Oceana James writes “love” with chalk on the ground in preparation for a performance of her work, “For Gowie: The Deceitful Fellow.”

Part of the set for James’s performance. It’s composed of a re-enactment of a spiritual offering juxtaposed with models of boats on which slaves arrived.

James chanted, “We give birth to humans, not slaves,” while she handed out a historical document listing the names and prices of women aged 16 to 60 who were sold as slaves.

The document used by James in her performance. Different columns list the women’s ages, prices, and comments on their health and abilities as laborers.

Fort Christiansvaern at dusk.

Tiffany Crawford is a New York-based writer and producer. She is the founder of Create, an event-driven media company focused on creating culturally relevant content for the tech world.