December 1 –
December 15, 2021
...Films by Julie Dash and Conversation with The Black Aesthetic
Set at the start of the 20th century, Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust tells the tale of a multi-generational family in the Gullah community on the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia—formerly enslaved West Africans who adopted many of their ancestors Yoruba traditions. Narrated by an unborn girl child, the film speaks of the importance of tradition, ancestors, and cultural legacy, while illustrating the family’s struggle to maintain heritage as they consider a migration to the mainland, departing even further from their roots. A languid and dreamy meditation, Dash’s film unravels through various vignettes that shift from the present to the past and the future, creating a visual family album illustrating the Gullah people and the preservation of their unique culture.

The first wide release by a Black female filmmaker, Daughters of the Dust was met with critical acclaim when it opened in 1991. Released the same year as Lorraine O’Grady’s canonical essay “Olympia’s Maid,” both Dash and O’Grady were exploring the complexity of Black female subjectivity and challenging representations of the Black female body in Western aesthetics and cultural production. Toni Cade Bambara remarked that with Daughters, Dash sought to “heal our imperialized eyes.”

Tune in on December 15 for a virtual presentation with Oakland-based curatorial collective The Black Aesthetic. Jamal Batts, Nan Collymore, Malika “Ra” Imhotep, and Leila Weefur respond to Dash’s films by engaging with Lorraine O’Grady’s essay “The Cave,” her notes on risk-taking, and other concerns expressed throughout O'Grady's cultural criticism.

Julie Dash (b. 1952, New York, NY) is a filmmaker, director, and author. Her film studies began in Harlem in 1969, but eventually led her to the American Film Institute and UCLA. Both her first feature, Daughters of the Dust, and her short film, Illusions, have been named to the National Film Registry by The Library of Congress. Dash is currently Diana King Endowed Professor in Film at Spelman College.


This is the third event in our year-long season dedicated to thinking about our contemporary moment through the lens of Lorraine O’Grady's work.

December 1, 6pm, at the Wattis (in-person): Screening of Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust (1991)

December 8, 5pm (PST), on Zoom: Lorraine O'Grady Film Club launches with Julie Dash's Illusions (1982)

December 15, 5pm (PST), on Zoom: A Conversation with The Black Aesthetic about Julie Dash's films.

*Daughters of the Dust and Illusions are available to view in person in the Wattis bar during gallery hours the first week of December.