k e i t h p i p e r 'Antebellum Acts'
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Antebellum Acts: Trickster Depictions and the American Plantation.

A 'paper' first presented at the International Symposium 'Art Across the Black Diaspora: Visualising Slavery in America' , Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford, 29th May 2013.

The ‘trickster’ has appeared and reappeared as a subversive figure of myth and cultural discourse, both globally and throughout history. Specifically in ‘Black Atlantic’ traditions, the retelling and reinvention of classic ‘trickster’ tropes link West African oral traditions, through the traumas of the ‘Middle Passage’, to the plantations of the ‘New World’ and beyond.

Using examples from my own practice as a visual artist, coupled with examples from popular music, comedy and contemporary film, this video essay seeks to examine how the American Slave Plantation has been redrawn as a site where complex codes of resistance, subversion, bluff, performance and collaboration are played out. Looking at depictions of the American Plantation from the 1977 television series ‘Roots’, based on Alex Haley’s novel, to Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Django Unchained’ of 2012, it attempts to examine the construction of the ‘trickster’ character as a way of rethinking assumptions around the passive ‘victimhood’ of slave populations.