108 Death Masks: A Communal Prayer for Peace and Justice
is a large scale sculptural installation centered on the living experience of shared wound.
The faces themselves are children, elders, mothers, fathers, sick, healthy, broken, half formed, deformed, and beaten, each face reminding us of our own mortality, humanity and fragility. Each of the 108 life-size ceramic faces in this installation came to the artist in a state of prayer, remembrance and ancestral honoring. Drawing upon deeply rooted African-American and Assyrian-Iranian heritage, the artist entered into a kind of communion with 108 of her own unknown, unnamed ancestral spirits.
The number, 108, is considered sacred in many cultures and religious teachings. The artist individually hand-carved 108 death masks as an act of prayer for her ancestors, whose lives and stories were lost to systemic racism, each face was sculpted from leather hard and beaten clay slabs, as a prayer for those who suffered and still suffer from violent oppression. From colonization and forced migration, to slavery and lynching, to the current state of police brutality and mass incarceration, black, brown and indigenous bodies have been the targets of the largest war on a people this planet has ever known. These death masks, become portals into the shared wound and the continued resilience that lives and breathes in people of color today.
This installation invites viewers to look directly at each of the 108 faces, to stand literally “face to face” with the reality of black death, and to allow for a moment of silence, breath, compassion and human connection. As viewers participate, they join in the communal prayer to end systematic racist violence targeting communities of color worldwide.