A huge + special thank you to my muses. Jada, Anaya, + Alanna, you three helped bring this project to life in the most stunning way. Beauty undeniably radiates from each of your souls, and I am thankful to have been able to capture it in its rawest form. It was such a pleasure creating this with you.
Much love, Mariah.
Fruit of the Womb is a two-part photo project created to weave conversation about motherhood and sisterhood within the black community. As an African-American woman, I relate to these narratives personally. I learned a lot about my strengths and resiliency as a woman by watching the women around me. I studied the movements of my mother, my grandmothers, my sisters. I studied their currents and their graceful mannerisms, realizing that their elegance, their glory, and even their flaws were an essential part of my journey.
Through this project, I focus on the importance of having a community of women. I give praise to black women and the extensions of their wombs. I give recognition to the collective sisterhood that makes being a woman so holy. In these times, much of the healing and work that I am doing is based around breaking generational curses and loosening strongholds. I want to prepare a better world for my children and be prepared to teach my daughters what it is to be a woman.
I watched my mother raise nine children, and even with flaw, she is one of the strongest women I know. I studied her role as a woman, sacrificing herself for each extension of her womb. I watched my older sister transition into motherhood, reaching back to our mother for guidance. That to me was the most beautiful thing, emphasizing the importance of motherhood, sisterhood, and womanhood. My duty as a woman is to extend my arms and help my sisters rise. It is to spare my wings at any moment I can to help another woman fly.
It is to heal every wound within my being so that when I give birth to my children, they are not forced to carry the weight of my pain or trauma. This is what fulfills me. Creating a present moment that I know speaks of a better future. Fruit of the Womb is a reminder to be intentional about the seeds you sow because each extension of yourself will be a product of that work. Create a better space for yourself and for your children, living or unborn. Heal. Untangle webs. And always, always rise.
Part One: Motherhood
"for the day you fill my belly with your wings"
daughter, come to me
Fruit of my womb, blue evening June under a summer's whispering glaze, I will hum you into the wake of morning, a soft spoken prayer covering you in Zion. For the day you fill my belly with your wings, I only hope we have softened the earth by then. I only hope we've unthread these webs within, for your passage shall be glorious.
mother, hold me now
Woman, you have carried a thousand moons and now you are carrying me. Such a sacrificial rendering to open up your body, to stretch yourself and create room for me. To allow my being to be threaded within your soul. My very existence woven within the walls of a glorious woman. That makes me nothing short of holy, this sort of matrimony, of intertwining two as one. And I have heard every prayer uttered under your tongue for these nine months. You have covered me in heaven, given me a place to lay my head and, mother, this is an offering.
to my mothers
You have shown me the beauty of being a woman, the beauty of having the ability to be life and create life all within the same breath. From you, I have learned womanhood is nothing short of glory. It is a thousand moons, a gathering of divine beings, a prayer uttered into the atmosphere. I have fallen in love with being a woman, with being an emotional being who allows herself to feel. Who continues to rise no matter what. I have fallen in love with a woman's tune, and I will hum it from evening to dawn.
Part Two: Sisterhood
"my golden thread, an embrace of solace"
sister, love me please
For both of us were woven within our mother's womb, a fruition of love lived, proof of a passionate fire unable to be dimmed. We are evidence of a yearning, no edge for such desire. Sister, you are my golden thread, an embrace of solace that softens these earth grounds. The world has tried countless times to mute our song, dim the very streetlights that hemmed the streets of our home. But sister, let us continue to be a testimony of genuine love, of our ability to draw breath though the world has tried to suffocate us, to remain embers in a dying fire.
sister, you are my Sunday mornings, the very bone that keeps me holy.
Day of rest and day of glory, our existence has been laced with battle wounds, our bodies singed with war and trauma. Still we dance on calloused feet, our fingers intertwined. Still we find our rhythm. No more humming weary blues, no more weaving empty tunes. We will not be buried beneath the ones who have tried to suppress our narrative. Mother taught us better. Our melody is one worth being sung. Our existence is a haven, and praises will forever flow from my lips in honor of us.
to my sisters
This war which has beset my mother's bones, shriveled my grandmothers' skin and marked my sisters' palms, this war is that which I am working to heal. This same evening that has carried down my spine for several years is that which I am trying to bring to day. Every inch of my being is dedicated to this rise, this beautiful ascension, this reach for the sun. All of who I am only desires to make this the same for every woman around me. This rise is ritual.
Jada, may your journey of motherhood bring blessings + joy. May you experience fulfillment as you gift this world with an extension of yourself and the love that brought it to be. Anaya + Alanna, may your sisterhood continue to grow. May you continue to encourage each other, and spread the love to your sisters around you. May womanhood continue to be a beautiful journey for each of you. May you all continue to rise.
This project is partially funded by an Arts Commission Accelerator Grant made possible through support from ProMedica, the Ohio Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts and other generous supporters.