Heritage of Resistance: Reenactment to Honor Slave Rebellion
Slave Rebellion Reenactment is a community-engaged artist performance and film production that, on November 8-9, 2019, will reimagine the German Coast Uprising of 1811, which took place in the river parishes just outside of New Orleans. Envisioned and organized by artist Dread Scott and documented by filmmaker John Akomfrah, Slave Rebellion Reenactment (SRR) will animate a suppressed history of people with an audacious plan to organize and seize Orleans Territory, to fight not just for their own emancipation, but to end slavery. It is a project about freedom.
The artwork will involve hundreds of reenactors in period specific clothing marching for two days covering 26 miles. The reenactment, the culmination of a period of organizing and preparation, will take place upriver from New Orleans in the locations where the 1811 revolt occurred—the exurban communities and industry that have replaced the sugar plantations will be its backdrop. The reenactment will be an impressive and startling sight—hundreads of Black re-enactors, many on horses, flags flying, in 19th-century French colonial garments, singing in Creole and English to African drumming.
A key element of slave revolts was the organizing of the uprising by small groups of trusted individuals, clandestinely plotting with others in small cells. Mirroring this structure, SRR will initiate several recruitment and organizing meetings of multiple small groupings of people to prepare the reenacted uprising. Extending the artwork’s performative reenactment of history, the meetings will take the form of conversations about why people choose to participate, about others they might involve, and why this history is important in contemporary society. The self-organization of the slave rebel reenactors is an essential part of the artwork.