Archival pigment print with silkscreen on archival paper, printed by Jacob Samuel
61 x 46.3 cm 24 1/8 x 18 1/4 in
Edition of 45 plus 20 APs
Wangechi Mutu Statement on Ms. Sarah's House:
Before Hurricane Katrina and the levy breach, Sarah Lastie had lived in the Lower 9th ward since 1972. At that time, it was a predominantly white neighborhood. The young couple, Sarah Lastie and her musician husband, the late Walter David Lastie (from the legendary New Orleans Lastie jazz family, aka Popee) bought their house from the Doctor who owned it at the time. The couple went on to have two daughters and created a family and community in the lower 9th ward. Sadly, Mr. Lastie died in December 1980.
I became attracted to Ms. Sarah’s space when I went on a site visit to New Orleans. After sifting through parts of the French Quarters, and visiting several Arts spaces and the CAC Museum, I finally went to visit the now infamous Lower 9th Ward. There at the crossroads of Caffin Street and Chartres Street is an art gallery named L9 Center for the Arts. I found the family of artists, who own and operate the L9 Center for the Arts, Chandra McCormick, her husband Keith Calhoun and their nephew Isaiah, incredibly warm and inviting. They are completely dedicated to their community as well as their art. Both Chandra and Keith have photographed and documented/recorded the Lower 9th ward for years. In fact, because of Hurricane Katrina they lost hundreds of photographs and negatives during the storm.
They showed me their space and we sat and talked about their experiences...It was a very organic and warm meeting. While at the meeting, I got up several times to look out the door, and each time I noticed the land diagonally across from them. The vacant lot intrigued me. I remember the beautiful vacant plot with perfectly cut grass and an unfinished foundation. I asked them about the space, and they mentioned it belonged to a woman named Ms. Sarah who still owned the land. Ms. Sarah used some of her savings to begin the rebuilding of herhouse. She had worked for the government for 30 years, in the Army and for Bell South and at 67 is retired.
Mrs. Sarah's story simultaneously fascinated as well as frustrated me as I listened. She had worked for the last two and a half years struggling with the City and State bureaucracy in her efforts to return to New Orleans. She began rebuilding her house that the City had demolished, due to damage by Hurricane Katrina, and the flood that followed from the levy breach.
Needless to say, Ms. Sarah ran into one brick wall after another, including being swindled by non-licensed contractors who built a foundation that would not pass building codes. Mrs. Sarah is left with renting a small space where her family (daughter and grand children) can live until she is finally able to get the funds to assist her in the rebuilding of her home.
Ms. Sarah's House is a site sensitive work that is being built as a tribute and a place of pilgrimage for Prospect 1 visitors but especially for the people of the Lower 9th ward who were struck twice in one week; first by the storm and secondly by the blow from the State of Louisiana’s catastrophic negligence.
Ms. Sarah’s House is made of light. This 'light-drawing' will create a kind of ghost building at night...a mirage of sorts, which represents an attempt to describe Ms. Sarah’s and others' dream of returning home. I plan to use the footprint of the house that was never built, as a pedestal. The building will consist of a frame that resembles a traditional New Orleans railroad house where the viewer can visit, enter and walk through out the space. In addition, I am producing a print titled 'Homeward Bound' that will be sold and used to raise funds for Ms. Sarah's House project. All proceeds will assist Ms. Sarah in rebuilding/restoring her family home.