Demetri Broxton

Work

Demetri Broxton | America’s Reflections of Me | 2021 | 46 x 27 x 8 inches | Everlast boxing gloves, steel nails, Japanese delica beads, Czech seed beads, cherry wood, ylang ylang, cotton & nylon thread, mirrors, stainless steel chain and hardware

Inspired by Kendrick Lamar’s 2017 track XXX., America’s Reflections of Me is a pair of Everlast boxing gloves pierced by nearly 20 lbs of common steel nails. The act of pounding nails partially into a wooden sculpture has roots in the Nkisi Nkondi power figures of the Kongo peoples of Central West Africa. A traditional nkisi has the power to both contain or release spiritual forces which can have both positive and negative consequences on the community. The nails pounded into the wood represent a contractual oath between two parties but can also serve to avenge those who have been denied justice. By combining Lamar’s lyrics with the symbolism of the nkinsi nkondi, America’s Reflections of Me seeks to address America’s broken promise of equality and liberty for all, while the mirrors reflect the viewer’s own image, reminding us that we all play a role in shaping this nation.

Demetri Broxton | America’s Reflections of Me | 2021 | 46 x 27 x 8 inches | Everlast boxing gloves, steel nails, Japanese delica beads, Czech seed beads, cherry wood, ylang ylang, cotton & nylon thread, mirrors, stainless steel chain and hardware

Inspired by Kendrick Lamar’s 2017 track XXX., America’s Reflections of Me is a pair of Everlast boxing gloves pierced by nearly 20 lbs of common steel nails. The act of pounding nails partially into a wooden sculpture has roots in the Nkisi Nkondi power figures of the Kongo peoples of Central West Africa. A traditional nkisi has the power to both contain or release spiritual forces which can have both positive and negative consequences on the community. The nails pounded into the wood represent a contractual oath between two parties but can also serve to avenge those who have been denied justice. By combining Lamar’s lyrics with the symbolism of the nkinsi nkondi, America’s Reflections of Me seeks to address America’s broken promise of equality and liberty for all, while the mirrors reflect the viewer’s own image, reminding us that we all play a role in shaping this nation.

Demetri Broxton | America’s Reflections of Me | 2021 | 46 x 27 x 8 inches | Everlast boxing gloves, steel nails, Japanese delica beads, Czech seed beads, cherry wood, ylang ylang, cotton & nylon thread, mirrors, stainless steel chain and hardware

Inspired by Kendrick Lamar’s 2017 track XXX., America’s Reflections of Me is a pair of Everlast boxing gloves pierced by nearly 20 lbs of common steel nails. The act of pounding nails partially into a wooden sculpture has roots in the Nkisi Nkondi power figures of the Kongo peoples of Central West Africa. A traditional nkisi has the power to both contain or release spiritual forces which can have both positive and negative consequences on the community. The nails pounded into the wood represent a contractual oath between two parties but can also serve to avenge those who have been denied justice. By combining Lamar’s lyrics with the symbolism of the nkinsi nkondi, America’s Reflections of Me seeks to address America’s broken promise of equality and liberty for all, while the mirrors reflect the viewer’s own image, reminding us that we all play a role in shaping this nation.

Demetri Broxton | Empathy Be the Reason| 2021 | 46 x 27 x 8 inches |Everlast boxing gloves, money cowrie shells, Japanese delica beads, Czech seed beads, cherry wood, High John the Conqueror powder, cotton, cotton & nylon thread, brass chain, steel hardware, raw prehnite, brass and copper rifle bullets (inert), quartz & tourmaline points, brass wire

The quote on this set of boxing gloves comes from Rapsody’s 2019 track, Nina. Poet Reyna Biddy guest stars for the outro and delivers a powerful tribute to the struggle of Black womanhood. A line from Biddy’s poem appears on the boxing gloves and serves as both an expression of compassion as well as a quiet warning. The word ‘standing’ suggests that the speaker can deliver a knockout punch to the recipient of the message but is holding herself back due to the desire to be empathetic. The chain is covered in raw prehnite crystals, the stone of unconditional love and one that heals the healer. The chain also has inert rifle bullets to suggest both the speaker’s potential to enact violence as well as the violence which has been inflicted upon the speaker.

Demetri Broxton | Empathy Be the Reason| 2021 | 46 x 27 x 8 inches |Everlast boxing gloves, money cowrie shells, Japanese delica beads, Czech seed beads, cherry wood, High John the Conqueror powder, cotton, cotton & nylon thread, brass chain, steel hardware, raw prehnite, brass and copper rifle bullets (inert), quartz & tourmaline points, brass wire

The quote on this set of boxing gloves comes from Rapsody’s 2019 track, Nina. Poet Reyna Biddy guest stars for the outro and delivers a powerful tribute to the struggle of Black womanhood. A line from Biddy’s poem appears on the boxing gloves and serves as both an expression of compassion as well as a quiet warning. The word ‘standing’ suggests that the speaker can deliver a knockout punch to the recipient of the message but is holding herself back due to the desire to be empathetic. The chain is covered in raw prehnite crystals, the stone of unconditional love and one that heals the healer. The chain also has inert rifle bullets to suggest both the speaker’s potential to enact violence as well as the violence which has been inflicted upon the speaker.

Demetri Broxton | Empathy Be the Reason| 2021 | 46 x 27 x 8 inches |Everlast boxing gloves, money cowrie shells, Japanese delica beads, Czech seed beads, cherry wood, High John the Conqueror powder, cotton, cotton & nylon thread, brass chain, steel hardware, raw prehnite, brass and copper rifle bullets (inert), quartz & tourmaline points, brass wire

The quote on this set of boxing gloves comes from Rapsody’s 2019 track, Nina. Poet Reyna Biddy guest stars for the outro and delivers a powerful tribute to the struggle of Black womanhood. A line from Biddy’s poem appears on the boxing gloves and serves as both an expression of compassion as well as a quiet warning. The word ‘standing’ suggests that the speaker can deliver a knockout punch to the recipient of the message but is holding herself back due to the desire to be empathetic. The chain is covered in raw prehnite crystals, the stone of unconditional love and one that heals the healer. The chain also has inert rifle bullets to suggest both the speaker’s potential to enact violence as well as the violence which has been inflicted upon the speaker.

Demetri Broxton | [Fight] The Power II | 2021 | 46 x 27 x 20 inches |Everlast speed bag, Japanese delica beads, Czech seed beads, money cowrie shells, denim, cotton, cotton & nylon thread, steel chain and hardware, High John the Conqueror root, red bamboo coral, mirror, aluminum chain, brass wire

This is the second rendition of [Fight] The Power inspired by Public Enemy’s 1989 revolutionary anthem. The word ‘fight’ is purposely omitted with the speed bag standing in place of the word. Speed bags, like all punching bags are the target of intense punches, but they also swing back. By encrusting the speed bag with money cowrie shells, the bag takes on the form of an ile ori – Yoruba house of the head shrines which are a demonstration of the owners wealth and social status, while also serving as a container for smaller shrines and prayers to sustain the power embodied in the owner’s head. In this way, the speed bag no longer functions for its original purpose, but instead serves as a talisman of protection. The aluminum chains contain red coral, another major signifier of prestige and power for the cultures of Nigeria.

Demetri Broxton | [Fight] The Power II | 2021 | 46 x 27 x 20 inches |Everlast speed bag, Japanese delica beads, Czech seed beads, money cowrie shells, denim, cotton, cotton & nylon thread, steel chain and hardware, High John the Conqueror root, red bamboo coral, mirror, aluminum chain, brass wire

This is the second rendition of [Fight] The Power inspired by Public Enemy’s 1989 revolutionary anthem. The word ‘fight’ is purposely omitted with the speed bag standing in place of the word. Speed bags, like all punching bags are the target of intense punches, but they also swing back. By encrusting the speed bag with money cowrie shells, the bag takes on the form of an ile ori – Yoruba house of the head shrines which are a demonstration of the owners wealth and social status, while also serving as a container for smaller shrines and prayers to sustain the power embodied in the owner’s head. In this way, the speed bag no longer functions for its original purpose, but instead serves as a talisman of protection. The aluminum chains contain red coral, another major signifier of prestige and power for the cultures of Nigeria.

Demetri Broxton | [Fight] The Power II | 2021 | 46 x 27 x 20 inches |Everlast speed bag, Japanese delica beads, Czech seed beads, money cowrie shells, denim, cotton, cotton & nylon thread, steel chain and hardware, High John the Conqueror root, red bamboo coral, mirror, aluminum chain, brass wire

This is the second rendition of [Fight] The Power inspired by Public Enemy’s 1989 revolutionary anthem. The word ‘fight’ is purposely omitted with the speed bag standing in place of the word. Speed bags, like all punching bags are the target of intense punches, but they also swing back. By encrusting the speed bag with money cowrie shells, the bag takes on the form of an ile ori – Yoruba house of the head shrines which are a demonstration of the owners wealth and social status, while also serving as a container for smaller shrines and prayers to sustain the power embodied in the owner’s head. In this way, the speed bag no longer functions for its original purpose, but instead serves as a talisman of protection. The aluminum chains contain red coral, another major signifier of prestige and power for the cultures of Nigeria.

Demetri Broxton | The Life I Earned | 2021 | 46 x 27 x 8 inches |Everlast boxing gloves, serpent’s head & arabica cowrie shells, Japanese delica beads, Czech seed beads, redwood, ylang ylang, cotton & nylon thread, brass chain, steel hardware, red bamboo coral, red howlite points, raw labradorite & prehnite, brass wire

In The Life I Earned, Broxton pulls a quote from female hip-hip artist Rapsody’s 2019 track, Cleo. In the track, Rapsody speaks about the challenges of being a female hip-hop artist, a distinctly male dominated industry. Her challenges are further exacerbated by the intersectionality of her identity as a Black woman. In this piece, Broxton combines serpent’s head cowries with arabica cowrie shells which are much larger and heavier than more commonly used cowries. The size and weight of these larger shells stands in as a metaphor for the struggle and added weight projected onto Black women. To release the burdens, Broxton added raw chunks of labradorite stones to the chain. Labradorite is a mystical and healing stone that brings courage and mental clarity to those in its presence.

Demetri Broxton | The Life I Earned | 2021 | 46 x 27 x 8 inches |Everlast boxing gloves, serpent’s head & arabica cowrie shells, Japanese delica beads, Czech seed beads, redwood, ylang ylang, cotton & nylon thread, brass chain, steel hardware, red bamboo coral, red howlite points, raw labradorite & prehnite, brass wire

In The Life I Earned, Broxton pulls a quote from female hip-hip artist Rapsody’s 2019 track, Cleo. In the track, Rapsody speaks about the challenges of being a female hip-hop artist, a distinctly male dominated industry. Her challenges are further exacerbated by the intersectionality of her identity as a Black woman. In this piece, Broxton combines serpent’s head cowries with arabica cowrie shells which are much larger and heavier than more commonly used cowries. The size and weight of these larger shells stands in as a metaphor for the struggle and added weight projected onto Black women. To release the burdens, Broxton added raw chunks of labradorite stones to the chain. Labradorite is a mystical and healing stone that brings courage and mental clarity to those in its presence.

Demetri Broxton | The Life I Earned | 2021 | 46 x 27 x 8 inches |Everlast boxing gloves, serpent’s head & arabica cowrie shells, Japanese delica beads, Czech seed beads, redwood, ylang ylang, cotton & nylon thread, brass chain, steel hardware, red bamboo coral, red howlite points, raw labradorite & prehnite, brass wire

In The Life I Earned, Broxton pulls a quote from female hip-hip artist Rapsody’s 2019 track, Cleo. In the track, Rapsody speaks about the challenges of being a female hip-hop artist, a distinctly male dominated industry. Her challenges are further exacerbated by the intersectionality of her identity as a Black woman. In this piece, Broxton combines serpent’s head cowries with arabica cowrie shells which are much larger and heavier than more commonly used cowries. The size and weight of these larger shells stands in as a metaphor for the struggle and added weight projected onto Black women. To release the burdens, Broxton added raw chunks of labradorite stones to the chain. Labradorite is a mystical and healing stone that brings courage and mental clarity to those in its presence.

Demetri Broxton | Catch a Fire| 2021 | 46 x 27 x 20 inches |Everlast boxing glove, Japanese delica beads, Czech seed beads, rooster coque feathers, guinea fowl feathers, pheasant feathers, brass chain, red howlite points, quartz & tourmaline points, brass wire

Catch a Fire is inspired by the poem of the same title by Sonia Sanchez. In the poem, Sanchez tells African Americans to find their ancestral fire and pass it on to the next generation. The piece is built on a single boxing glove covered and pierced by the feathers of three birds: rooster coque, guinea fowl, and pheasant. Feathers are a new element in Broxton’s work and their use is inspired by the elaborate headdresses found throughout the continent of Africa where they serve as signifiers of authority, wisdom, and because of the ability of birds to fly between heaven and earth, a connection to higher powers.

Demetri Broxton | Catch a Fire| 2021 | 46 x 27 x 20 inches |Everlast boxing glove, Japanese delica beads, Czech seed beads, rooster coque feathers, guinea fowl feathers, pheasant feathers, brass chain, red howlite points, quartz & tourmaline points, brass wire

Catch a Fire is inspired by the poem of the same title by Sonia Sanchez. In the poem, Sanchez tells African Americans to find their ancestral fire and pass it on to the next generation. The piece is built on a single boxing glove covered and pierced by the feathers of three birds: rooster coque, guinea fowl, and pheasant. Feathers are a new element in Broxton’s work and their use is inspired by the elaborate headdresses found throughout the continent of Africa where they serve as signifiers of authority, wisdom, and because of the ability of birds to fly between heaven and earth, a connection to higher powers.

Demetri Broxton | Catch a Fire| 2021 | 46 x 27 x 20 inches |Everlast boxing glove, Japanese delica beads, Czech seed beads, rooster coque feathers, guinea fowl feathers, pheasant feathers, brass chain, red howlite points, quartz & tourmaline points, brass wire

Catch a Fire is inspired by the poem of the same title by Sonia Sanchez. In the poem, Sanchez tells African Americans to find their ancestral fire and pass it on to the next generation. The piece is built on a single boxing glove covered and pierced by the feathers of three birds: rooster coque, guinea fowl, and pheasant. Feathers are a new element in Broxton’s work and their use is inspired by the elaborate headdresses found throughout the continent of Africa where they serve as signifiers of authority, wisdom, and because of the ability of birds to fly between heaven and earth, a connection to higher powers.

Demetri Broxton | Worst Come to Worst | 2021 | 46 x 27 x 8 inches |Everlast boxing gloves, serpent’s head cowrie shells, Japanese delica beads, Czech seed beads, redwood, ylang ylang, cotton & nylon thread, brass chain, steel hardware, red bamboo coral, quartz & tourmaline points, brass wire

This work is inspired by the most popular track by the 90s era underground hip-hop group Dilated Peoples. The piece expands upon several key ideas central to Broxton’s body of work and the critical role cowrie shells played in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Traditionally, enslaved Africans were traded for money cowrie shells (cypraea moneta) but Broxton swapped those out for serpent’s head cowries (monetaria caputserpensis). This brown form of cowrie is found from the Red Sea down through the West Pacific and notably in the Philippines where Broxton’s maternal grandmother was born. The brown of the serpent’s head cowries reflects the color of Black skin and provides a visual connection to the human bodies exchanged for shells.

Demetri Broxton | Worst Come to Worst | 2021 | 46 x 27 x 8 inches |Everlast boxing gloves, serpent’s head cowrie shells, Japanese delica beads, Czech seed beads, redwood, ylang ylang, cotton & nylon thread, brass chain, steel hardware, red bamboo coral, quartz & tourmaline points, brass wire

This work is inspired by the most popular track by the 90s era underground hip-hop group Dilated Peoples. The piece expands upon several key ideas central to Broxton’s body of work and the critical role cowrie shells played in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Traditionally, enslaved Africans were traded for money cowrie shells (cypraea moneta) but Broxton swapped those out for serpent’s head cowries (monetaria caputserpensis). This brown form of cowrie is found from the Red Sea down through the West Pacific and notably in the Philippines where Broxton’s maternal grandmother was born. The brown of the serpent’s head cowries reflects the color of Black skin and provides a visual connection to the human bodies exchanged for shells.

Demetri Broxton | Worst Come to Worst | 2021 | 46 x 27 x 8 inches |Everlast boxing gloves, serpent’s head cowrie shells, Japanese delica beads, Czech seed beads, redwood, ylang ylang, cotton & nylon thread, brass chain, steel hardware, red bamboo coral, quartz & tourmaline points, brass wire

This work is inspired by the most popular track by the 90s era underground hip-hop group Dilated Peoples. The piece expands upon several key ideas central to Broxton’s body of work and the critical role cowrie shells played in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Traditionally, enslaved Africans were traded for money cowrie shells (cypraea moneta) but Broxton swapped those out for serpent’s head cowries (monetaria caputserpensis). This brown form of cowrie is found from the Red Sea down through the West Pacific and notably in the Philippines where Broxton’s maternal grandmother was born. The brown of the serpent’s head cowries reflects the color of Black skin and provides a visual connection to the human bodies exchanged for shells.

Demetri Broxton | Mojo Hand | 2021 | 46 x 27 x 20 inches |Everlast boxing gloves, glass pearls, 19th century white heart beads, Czech seed beads & tube beads, money cowrie shells, shredded denim, nylon thread, steel wire, felt, High John the Conqueror powder, , brass bell, red clay, herbs

Mojo Hand takes its name from the 1962 album by Blues legend, Lightnin’ Hopkins. A Mojo hand comes from the Southern Hoodoo tradition and is an amulet consisting of a felt bag (usually red) filled with magical substances. Mojo has direct roots in West Africa and the tradition was brought to the Americas by enslaved people brought during the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Mojo hands are used to drive away evil spirits, keep good luck in the household, manipulate a fortune, and lure or persuade lovers.

In this piece, I made the hand a bit more literal than the traditional concept of a hand. The general form is inspired by an 18th century Sango priest’s tunic in the collection of Yale Art Museum. The tunic is filled with holes from decades of use and has a section of cowrie shells woven in the same devil’s backbone pattern I wove around the outer edges. The piece brings together several off-loom bead weaving techniques and is entirely held together with steel wire.

Demetri Broxton | Mojo Hand | 2021 | 46 x 27 x 20 inches |Everlast boxing gloves, glass pearls, 19th century white heart beads, Czech seed beads & tube beads, money cowrie shells, shredded denim, nylon thread, steel wire, felt, High John the Conqueror powder, , brass bell, red clay, herbs

Mojo Hand takes its name from the 1962 album by Blues legend, Lightnin’ Hopkins. A Mojo hand comes from the Southern Hoodoo tradition and is an amulet consisting of a felt bag (usually red) filled with magical substances. Mojo has direct roots in West Africa and the tradition was brought to the Americas by enslaved people brought during the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Mojo hands are used to drive away evil spirits, keep good luck in the household, manipulate a fortune, and lure or persuade lovers.

In this piece, I made the hand a bit more literal than the traditional concept of a hand. The general form is inspired by an 18th century Sango priest’s tunic in the collection of Yale Art Museum. The tunic is filled with holes from decades of use and has a section of cowrie shells woven in the same devil’s backbone pattern I wove around the outer edges. The piece brings together several off-loom bead weaving techniques and is entirely held together with steel wire.

Untitled Art San Francisco 2020

DEMETRI BROXTONWorth the Weight | 2019-20 | Everlast gloves, cowrie shells, 24K gold Japanese delica beads, Czech seed beads, redwood, frankincense, cotton & nylon thread, brass nails, mirrors, stainless steel chain and hardware | Collection of the Monterey Museum

Inspired by the opening track of Jidenna’s 85 to Africa and Saidiya Hartman’s Lose Your MotherWorth the Weight brings together several key ideas central to Broxton’s body of work. Cowrie shells were one of the key forms of currency used to purchase enslaved Africans during the Transatlantic Slave Trade. According to Hartman’s research, a strong male could be purchased for approximately 1 pound of cowrie shells for every 13 pound of the man’s body weight. Worth the Weight brings together the history of boxing which has been heavily tied into concepts of race and racial superiority ever since Jack Johnson became the first Black heavyweight champion of the world in 1908. The boxing gloves are embellished with cowrie shells and cascade down to a larger pile of 17 pounds of cowrie shells — corresponding to the purchase amount for the average weight of modern heavyweight boxers.

 

 

DEMETRI BROXTONSave Me, Joe Louis / 2019-20 / Everlast boxing gloves, redwood, cowrie shells, Japanese and Czech seed beads, cotton, silver wire, stainless steel chain & hardware, frankincense, nylon thread, mirrors

The power of boxing in the African American community during the Jim Crow era is central to Save Me, Joe Louis. In the 1930s, a Black inmate on death row in a Southern state is asphyxiated in a gas chamber. As he breathes the fatal fumes, and as observers watch from behind a thick pane of glass, he cries out: “Save me, Joe Louis! Save me, Joe Louis!” The story has been told over and over again, usually to demonstrate Joe Louis’ nearly god-like status for Black Americans in the pre-World War II era. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is most famous for retelling this story. Save Me, Joe Louis intends to ask the question of how much progress America has made since the 1930s? Do we still need a superhero?

Embellished with cowrie shells, beads, and mirrors, the piece becomes a totem for those who still need a great Black hope.

DEMETRI BROXTONSave Me, Joe Louis | 2019-20 | Everlast boxing gloves, redwood, cowrie shells, Japanese and Czech seed beads, cotton, silver wire, stainless steel chain & hardware, frankincense, nylon thread, mirrors

The power of boxing in the African American community during the Jim Crow era is central to Save Me, Joe Louis. In the 1930s, a Black inmate on death row in a Southern state is asphyxiated in a gas chamber. As he breathes the fatal fumes, and as observers watch from behind a thick pane of glass, he cries out: “Save me, Joe Louis! Save me, Joe Louis!” The story has been told over and over again, usually to demonstrate Joe Louis’ nearly god-like status for Black Americans in the pre-World War II era. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is most famous for retelling this story. Save Me, Joe Louis intends to ask the question of how much progress America has made since the 1930s? Do we still need a superhero?

Embellished with cowrie shells, beads, and mirrors, the piece becomes a totem for those who still need a great Black hope.

Demetri BroxtonApollo Creed As Muhummad Ali | 2019 | Everlast gloves, Cowrie shells, Thread, Japanese and Czech Seed Beads, Chain, Herbs & Essential Oils, High John the Conqueror powder, Mirrors, Found American Flag | Private Collection

Demetri BroxtonApollo Creed As Muhummad Ali | 2019 | Everlast gloves, Cowrie shells, Thread, Japanese and Czech Seed Beads, Chain, Herbs & Essential Oils, High John the Conqueror powder, Mirrors, Found American Flag | Private Collection

Demetri Broxton | DNA | 2019 | Everlast gloves, Cowrie shells, Thread, Japanese and Czech Seed Beads, Chain, Herbs & Essential Oils, High John the Conqueror powder, Mirrors, Quartz Points, Cotton, Frankincense, Myrrh, 14K Gold-plated wire | Private Collection

Demetri Broxton / DNA detail/ 2019 / Everlast gloves, Cowrie shells, Thread, Japanese and Czech Seed Beads, Chain, Herbs & Essential Oils, High John the Conqueror powder, Mirrors, Quartz Points, Cotton, Frankincense, Myrrh, 14K Gold-plated wire

Demetri Broxton / DNA detail/ 2019 / Everlast gloves, Cowrie shells, Thread, Japanese and Czech Seed Beads, Chain, Herbs & Essential Oils, High John the Conqueror powder, Mirrors, Quartz Points, Cotton, Frankincense, Myrrh, 14K Gold-plated wire

Demetri Broxton | I Was Born to FLEX | 2019 | Everlast gloves, Cowrie shells, Thread, Japanese and Czech Seed Beads, Chain, Herbs & Essential Oils, High John the Conqueror powder, Mirrors, 7.62 caliber brass rifle bullets (inert), leather, cotton, 14 K gold-plated wire

Demetri Broxton | I Was Born to FLEX | 2019 | Everlast gloves, Cowrie shells, Thread, Japanese and Czech Seed Beads, Chain, Herbs & Essential Oils, High John the Conqueror powder, Mirrors, 7.62 caliber brass rifle bullets (inert), leather, cotton, 14 K gold-plated wire

Demetri Broxton | I Was Born to FLEX | 2019 | Everlast gloves, Cowrie shells, Thread, Japanese and Czech Seed Beads, Chain, Herbs & Essential Oils, High John the Conqueror powder, Mirrors, 7.62 caliber brass rifle bullets (inert), leather, cotton, 14 K gold-plated wire

Demetri Broxton[Fight] The Power I | 2019 | 46 x 27 x 20 inches |Everlast speed bag, 19th century French seed beads, Czech seed beads, money cowrie shells, cotton, cotton & nylon thread, brass chain and hardware, brass and copper inert rifle bullets, leather, High John the Conqueror root, antique Swarovski crystals, red bamboo coral, mirror, brass wire, leather cord, red clay, herbs

[Fight] The Power, I is inspired by Public Enemy’s 1989 revolutionary anthem. The word ‘fight’ is purposely omitted with the speed bag standing in place of the word. Speed bags, like all punching bags are the target of intense punches, but they also swing back. By encrusting the speed bag with money cowrie shells, the bag takes on the form of an ile ori – Yoruba house of the head shrines which are a demonstration of the owner’s wealth and social status, while also serving as a container for smaller shrines and prayers to sustain the power embodied in the owner’s head. In this way, the speed bag no longer functions for its original purpose, but instead serves as a talisman of protection. The bullets, red coral, and mojo hands – leather pouches filled with herbs and clay – are signifiers of prestige, power, and protection.

Demetri Broxton | [Fight] the Power I | 2019 |Speed punching bag, Cowrie shells, Thread, Japanese and Czech Seed Beads, Chain, Herbs & Essential Oils, High John the Conqueror powder, Mirrors, 7.62 caliber brass rifle bullets (inert), leather brass, coral, cotton, 14 K gold-plated wire

[Fight] The Power, I is inspired by Public Enemy’s 1989 revolutionary anthem. The word ‘fight’ is purposely omitted with the speed bag standing in place of the word. Speed bags, like all punching bags are the target of intense punches, but they also swing back. By encrusting the speed bag with money cowrie shells, the bag takes on the form of an ile ori – Yoruba house of the head shrines which are a demonstration of the owner’s wealth and social status, while also serving as a container for smaller shrines and prayers to sustain the power embodied in the owner’s head. In this way, the speed bag no longer functions for its original purpose, but instead serves as a talisman of protection. The bullets, red coral, and mojo hands – leather pouches filled with herbs and clay – are signifiers of prestige, power, and protection.

Videos

Demetri Broxton / I Was Born to FLEX / 2019 / Everlast gloves, Cowrie shells, Thread, Japanese and Czech Seed Beads, Chain, Herbs & Essential Oils, High John the Conqueror powder, Mirrors, 7.62 caliber brass rifle bullets (inert), leather, cotton, 14 K gold-plated wire

“I Was Born to Flex is inspired by the track, Money by female hip-hop artist, Cardi B. Flex is an urban slang term meaning “to show off” or brag. The term is most commonly used when someone shows off their wealth with gold, diamonds, money, and other expensive items; however, it can also refer to showing off one’s toned or muscular body. The piece continues my exploration of luxury items used as currency in the Transatlantic Slave Trade, such as gold, glass beads, cowrie shells, guns and ammunition.”

“In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, cowrie shells, most specifically, became the currency of West Africa when Europeans traded them for enslaved Africans. During this period, prestige became the most important means of displaying power in West African societies, so items of value were traded in exchange for human bodies. In this way, prestige items acted as blood money. West African items held in collections of some of the most important museums of the world are covered with these beautiful items that have now been rendered worthless as currency.”

“By bringing materials together that once served as important displays of power and prestige and blending them with boxing and contemporary hip hop lyrics, I seek to bring the past forward to the present. Hip hop, is a musical form born in the ghetto by descendants of the Transatlantic Slave Trade — those who were traded for the same materials adorning my art piece. Artists in this genre are well-known for bragging about their stacks of cash but only very few are actually wealthy. The hope of becoming wealthy and transcending the confines of the hood serves as powerful motivation for young people of color. In this way, I Was Born to Flex is born out the hope that all those who were raised with very little financial means dream of, to live the American Dream and live the high life.”

Demetri Broxton | I was Born to Flex | Everlast gloves, Cowrie shells, Thread, Japanese and Czech Seed Beads, Chain, Herbs & Essential Oils, High John the Conqueror powder, Mirrors, 7.62 caliber brass rifle bullets (inert), leather, cotton, 14 K gold-plated wire | size variable

DEMETRI BROXTON / Save Me, Joe Louis / 2019-20 / Everlast boxing gloves, redwood, cowrie shells, Japanese and Czech seed beads, cotton, silver wire, stainless steel chain & hardware, frankincense, nylon thread, mirrors

The power of boxing in the African American community during the Jim Crow era is central to Save Me, Joe Louis. In the 1930s, a Black inmate on death row in a Southern state is asphyxiated in a gas chamber. As he breathes the fatal fumes, and as observers watch from behind a thick pane of glass, he cries out: “Save me, Joe Louis! Save me, Joe Louis!” The story has been told over and over again, usually to demonstrate Joe Louis’ nearly god-like status for Black Americans in the pre-World War II era. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is most famous for retelling this story. Save Me, Joe Louis intends to ask the question of how much progress America has made since the 1930s? Do we still need a superhero?

Embellished with cowrie shells, beads, and mirrors, the piece becomes a totem for those who still need a great Black hope.

BIO

Demeti Broxton’s textile sculptures reflect his connection to the sacred art of the Yoruba people of Nigeria, the beading traditions of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indians, and his love of hip hop and graffiti. He understands his work as an ongoing investigation of cultural continuities from Africa to America and is particularly interested in how these ancient cultural forms find their way into mainstream culture. Thus, elements of Nigerian royal regalia, sports equipment with significant ties to African American history, Southern voodoo/hoodoo traditions, and quotes from hip-hop artists are seamlessly blended with beaded patchwork employing the same techniques used by the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indians.

On view are boxing gloves and robe, hand-embroidered with beads, using a backstitch, an adaptation of Yoruba beading traditions and Native American beading techniques. He also weaves in objects of power and protection, such as High John the Conqueror root, a staple in American Hoodoo traditions and other hidden talismans. Broxton’s work connects contemporary hip-hop artists to the tradition of the Oba, where lyrical quotes and personas embody superhuman power and even some, like Pusha T, who call themselves gods.

In the Yoruba and New Orleans tradition, men are the creators of beaded regalia; however, this is not the case in mainstream American culture where beading and weaving techniques are often seen as women’s work. Broxton’s mash up of bead weaving, which quotes hypermasculine phrases from hip-hop songs, creates an intentional tension and contrast between delicate and powerful, beautiful and dark, masculine and feminine. The use of cowrie shells adds an additional layer of complexity to the underlying ideas in Broxton’s work. Cowrie shell sculptures in the Yoruba tradition are called Ilé Ori or House of the Head Shrines. Ilé Ori are shrines to a person’s spiritual essence; protected by a shield of cowrie shells. During the height of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, human beings were purchased with cowrie shells brought by Portuguese slave ships. In some cases, owning an Ilé Ori could protect a wealthy Yoruba person from being sold into slavery. This juxtaposition of beauty, pain, power, and influence can be seen throughout Broxton’s series; as the shells in Broxton’s artwork represent the violence and wealth of the slave trading economy – a heritage that continues in sports and hip-hop lyrics.

Demetri Broxton is a mixed media artist of Louisiana Creole and Filipino heritage. He was born and raised in Oakland, CA and earned a BFA with an emphasis in oil painting at UC Berkeley in 2002. Demetri is influenced by craft and folk traditions and is passionate about infusing these traditions into fine art.