What is it?
The Blue Bead Project is about giving a voice to the voiceless. It is about awareness intended to bring about change and healing.
It is designed to raise awareness for modern slavery. Our project began with a large installation that was displayed during ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Mi. in 2015.
This piece now resides at the end of the old Underground Railroad, Salem Chapel in St. Catherine's, Ontario. The same chapel where Harriet Tubman guided the slaves to their new life in Canada. Today it is time to begin a new underground railroad. And we want you to be a part of it.
Why a Blue Bead?
Beads are one of the earliest forms of currency used in trade. The Blue Trade Beads were used between the 15th and 20th Centuries as currency, in exchange for gold, ivory, land and slaves, which lead to the name "Slave Bead". They were most widely used during the 17th century when the Dutch East India Company used them. The pentagonal shaped beads were made in Amsterdam though the Venetians dominated production.
Thirty blue slave beads were allegedly used by the Dutch to purchase New York's Manhattan Island from the Native Americans. In some areas they were used to pay wages, allowing some slaves to buy their freedom. After emanciapation, legend says that the ex slaves of St. Eustatius gathered up all the beads and threw them into the ocean, where divers still find them today.
These Blue Glass Beads have been found repeatedly in the graves of African American Slaves in the United States and elsewhere. We have to wonder, if these beads could have been used to buy freedom, why were they taken to the grave? If they had such value in trade, why were they thrown into the ocean? We believe they were used in offering to Yemaja, an African orisha. She is the ocean and the one who connected them to home.
We use art in all it's forms to raise awareness of modern day slavery and to challenge the beliefs we hold that enables its existence