Helina Metaferia honors the militant legacy of black women through collage and performance


The series has its origins after the death of Metaferia’s mother in 2016. In her grief, Metaferia began to use performance, archives, heirlooms and photography as a way to carry her mother’s legacy with her in the present. Metaferia’s mother, Maigenet Shifferraw, was a political organizer who worked on women’s rights to end child marriage, free Ethiopian political prisoners and more. Shifferraw and Metaferia’s father, Getachew Metaferia, a teacher, came to the United States for school with the intention of returning to Ethiopia, but the outbreak of the Ethiopian Civil War in 1974 made this impossible. In a catalog interview with “Generations” curator Michelle Millar Fisher, Metaferia explained that her parents likely would have been imprisoned because of their professions as activists and educators. Metaferia’s roots in activism are informed by her parents’ move from Ethiopia and their organization to Washington, D.C., where they eventually moved and where Metaferia was born and raised.

Metaferia’s balance between the personal and the political within social spaces is evident in the video installation The answer (2021) – featured in “All Put Together” – which follows the participatory Metaferia workshop held in the spring of 2021 with Black, Indigenous and people of color living in Boston. Specifically highlighting women and non-binary people in social movements, the event was a continuation of the participatory performance workshops organized by Metaferia, in which she uses institutional space and critique as a means of redressing the wrongs inflicted on women. women of color in these spaces.


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