Displayed in a nineteenth-century-style ornate frame, the image of an elegantly dressed Black woman stares at us, self-possessed. Unflinching, she moves her head, almost imperceptibly, as a voice-over recites, “My love is too sanctified to have thrown back on my face.” The murmur then multiplies, singing praises to that love that is “too beautiful, too sacred, to have thrown back on my face.”
The mantra, taken from Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf (1975), repeats while Fawundu slowly reaches for her braid and starts unraveling it. In dramatic interludes of words and music, she combs her fingers through her hair. Silence. And then she begins to undo her left braid. With the liberation ritual fulfilled, the sovereign Fawundu owns the visual space demarcated by the sumptuous frame, a space that few named women of color were allowed to occupy in the tradition of Western portraiture.