"From Her Body Came Their Greatest Wealth", Wall Street, New York from the White Shoes series, Copyright Nona Faustine
“From Her Body Came Their Greatest Wealth”, Wall Street, New York, from the White Shoes series, Copyright Nona Faustine

New York has a reputation for being a melting pot, but it also has a strong history of slave trading. For her photo series, White Shoes, artist Nona Faustine wanted to call attention to that history and its enduring legacy.

“As a time traveler I’m very invested in the past and our future. I see myself, the people who built this city and country as one. They deserve so much recognition for their sacrifice and contributions, something that is still being denied them. There was a force deep inside of me that needed to pay homage to those who played a pivotal role in the early history of this city, and the spaces in which they existed. I wanted to uncover those places where a tangible link to the past exists. Being a documentarian at heart I wanted you to feel and see those spaces, let your mind wonder. What does a Black body look like today in the place where they sold human beings 250 years ago? No other medium but photography and film could do that. “

"They Tagged the Land With Trophies and Institutions From Their Conquests", New York City Hall from the White Shoes series, Copyright Nona Faustine
“They Tagged the Land With Trophies and Institutions From Their Conquests”, New York City Hall, from the White Shoes series, Copyright Nona Faustine

Although American slavery is often painted as a Southern legacy, it was an integral part of the culture and economy of Northern states also, including New York;

“Slavery was introduced to Manhattan (then New Amsterdam) in 1626 and, for two centuries, remained a significant part of New York life. In fact, the New York City Common Council declared Wall Street the city’s first official slave market on December 13, 1711, deeming it a space where human beings could be enslaved for the day or for the week. The slave market took the shape of a wooden structure with open sides, and held approximately 50 people at a time. It operated as such, on the corner of Wall Street and Pearl Street in the heart of the Financial District, until 1762. Slavery was legally abolished in New York in 1827.”

"Over My Dead Body", New York City Hall from the White Shoes series, Copyright Nona Faustine
“Over My Dead Body”, New York City Hall, from the White Shoes series, Copyright Nona Faustine

The use of women’s bodies for sociopolitical reasons is still very controversial, particularly for black women. Black woman protesters recently marched topless during San Francisco rush hour to draw attention to police brutality against black women, a move that drew both admiration and criticism.

As for Faustine, shedding her clothes publicly was both exhilerating and challenging;

“My eyes are wide open, and still I’m there and not there. My body is pumping with adrenaline. My anxiety is extremely high. During all that, you filter out as much abstractions as possible so that you can maintain some sort of composure for the camera as people, cars and buses go by. My senses are elevated. Sounds in particular I hone into. I have this feeling of being watched, by something or someone not actually there at times. I’m extremely aware of my presence in these places.”

"On This Spit Of Land Massa and I Reside", Pre-revolutionary Dutch Cemetery, Brooklyn from the White Shoes series, Copyright Nona Faustine
“On This Spit Of Land Massa and I Reside”, Pre-revolutionary Dutch Cemetery, Brooklyn, from the White Shoes series, Copyright Nona Faustine

Faustine’s photo series was inspired in part by Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman, known as Venus Hottentot; a Khoikhoi African woman whose large buttocks and curvy figure were exhibited in freak shows throughout 19th century Europe.

As for the white shoes in Faustine’s photography, they represent “the white patriarchy that we cannot escape.”

What do you think of the White Shoes photo series?
You can find Nona Faustine on Instagram and Facebook.

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noelliste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop culture and black beauty enthusiast. bell hooks' hair twin...

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392 Comments on "Black Woman Artist Poses Nude at Former New York City Slave Trading Sites, Including Wall Street"

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Kita Williams

Absolutely love the bold statement. Black woman in its rarest form taking back the image that was meant to ridicule and debase. I applaud her

Nia Says

nothing short of amazing. This gave me pause and perspective.

Philly Jawn

No

cryssi

I felt pain seeing these. It felt present. I had questions, but they are irrelevant to the imagery displayed here.

lauryn

POWERFUL!! Black Women Rock!! <3

Marcia JUdkins

A stark reminder of the atrocities our ancestors were forced to endure. I applaud her courage and convictions.

Leslie

i wrote this long, passionate, angry piece about the pain I feel when I see black women being sold back on the block but instead of chains, designer names, instead of …. Here I go again. My dream is for enough of us to be awakened and strengthened to say “no more”.

ama

awesome series. people do forget that the north was built on the land of ndns and the backs of slaves. so I am glad she is bringing this back to the forefront in her way.

Nana Ohenemaa

Just out of curiosity. Was she arrested for doing this, or she had a permit?

omfg
i’m sorry but this is so…well, not something i want to look at. i know that people nowadays believe that anything goes. people will say, ‘stop body shaming, fat shaming, woman shaming, black shaming, expression shaming, cellulite shaming, feeling shaming, shame shaming, thug shaming, blah blah blah. does anyone believe in drawing a line at all? i must be the only one who finds these displays annoying, unhelpful, attention-seeking, and a little sad. i mean great, she’s a fat black woman (who takes pride in all three i supposed), who goes around butt naked to pose for pictures and calls… Read more »
Natty Patty

When Kim Kardashian shows her fake big ass it breaks the internet. This out of shape woman does something to bring light to slavery and you call this narcissism?

No this lady is not pleasant to look at but neither was slavery.

Peg

So is your definition of ‘real art’ Alexander Calder?

FHC1990

Thumbs up x10000. I think our culture has become politically correct to a fault.

Guest

Lol! You’re a complete joke and so transparent. Simply hilarious.

Nicole Lasher

It’s not as much about being proud as it is being honest. We’ve been told for hundreds of years that we are ugly no matter what we do or how much we weigh. Our bodies have always been a spectacle for “white” people.

Women of all ages and sizes were still stripped down and sold on the block. If you only want to see the “pretty” ones, that’s your sick fantasy, not the reality.

Marisol

So you didn’t get it. That’s probably because she is the stalk opposite of who your ancestors were…Don’t worry, no one is going to shame you for being the beneficiary of her ancestors pain.

HealthFirst

I’m unable to see past her weight. She really needs to lose the weight. It’s just too unhealthy to be like that.

Peg

I’m really sorry that you can’t see the beauty and courage in her actions. Your statement is judgmental. And unnecessary.

Nicole Lasher

Well, back in the slave days (and still in some places) some would say this “heifer” would make a mighty fine wet nurse and/or breeder. Her price would be around the equivalent of buying a new car today.

Getting the point yet?

Ebony

This was pointless and disgusting.

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