The Words of Gee’s Bend

Being in San Francisco for a week, we went to an exhibit of quilts, “The Quilts of Gee’s Bend.” The quilts come from an isolated area of Alabama where the women of the community, making use of whatever materials were available, created works of art, spectacular collages of color. But it’s words that stick with me more than color. I will remember longer the small quotations framed beside the quilts.

“In the quilting bee time, I started using patterns, but I shouldn’t have did it. It broke the ideas I had in my head. I should have stayed with my own ideas. I kept making quilts all the way up to last year. I still got the feeling every now and then to sew, but I just don’t have the mind to do it now. My hands are good, but I ain’t quite got the spirit – not like before when I’m always ready day and night. Age got me.”

“I remember when Dr. Martin Luther King came to Camden. Lot of them went to see him, but I didn’t. I didn’t have no ride up there. But I hear the stories, and it made me feel very good, the path he cut for us. It was, you know, like you walk into a room and ain’t no light on, and you turn on a light in the darkness – that’s what Dr. King meant to us. He turned on the light for us.”

“My mama worked until she was about ninety and her mind kind of slowed down. She didn’t want to slow down. She even tried to climb trees until we stopped her. And she kept on quilting.”

I remember a friend telling me once how he had gone to an art exhibit and all the way home he was seeing the colors in his mind. I understand that because I know how words echo in mine. The quilts were wonderful, but the words were what I’ll remember.

1 Comment

Joanne WAugust 16th, 2006 at 8:22 pm

I had read about this exhibit and seen pictures of the quilts but your
focus on the words of the quilters added a whole new dimension. THANK YOU!

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