The Emerald Tree Boa

Cast Bronze, 2005
18" x 20" x 36"

To Aunt Neppie life had no borders. All things served some purpose. She was heavily steeped in the religious beliefs of the African Methodist Church, as it was recently incorporated. Her congregation had left the white church where they were required to worship from the balcony and could not be officers or preachers. They were relegated to sitting in a separate area and giving their offerings. Even after the break, Aunt Neppie soon grew tired of this European-based religion.

Without farewells or support, she began to seek to understand spiritual beliefs and practices through another source. She chose to return to her own African roots, although she was told by her church family that such a path reeked of witchcraft and paganism, from which no good could come.

By observing nature and believing that all things arose from the earth, she began to concoct her own interpretations of spirituality. She performed trancelike dance movements, and created strange chants. All this she used to attract followers. Their practices were kept secret, and were only performed in isolated places. They also spoke among themselves about revolts and freedom. They created a vocabulary of codes, and various ways of disguising themselves from those who were the owners of the land. She continued this practice throughout her life. Her powers were felt by all levels of society. Her healing abilities were especially well known. It was only the mysterious deaths that occurred around her that people still question today.

We see her at the height of her career in her regalia as a voodoo priestess. She transcends our world and penetrate that elusive realm of the spirits. Holding forth the circle of thorns, she reaffirms to the gods the natural way of life and death in the form of the emerald boa and the colorful magpie, a predator-prey syndrome played out once again. Aunt Neppie is truly a woman who has broken the bonds of slavery through her revolutionary beliefs and behavior.