Joscelyn Gardner's Botanical Protest
Creole Portraits III alludes to the 18th century practice by slave women on Caribbean plantations of using tropical plants as natural abortifacients.1As an act of political resistance against their exploitation as “breeders” of new slaves and to protest the inhumanity of slavery, some slave women chose to either abort or kill their offspring. Armed with practical knowledge passed on orally from their African ancestors and/or Amerindian counterparts, enslaved Creole women collected the seeds, bark, flowers, sap, and roots from various plants which allowed them to secretly put an end to their pregnancies. This series of female Creole portraits is “named” for the botanical specimens used by these women to induce abortion. The lithographic portraits reveal intricately braided Afro-centric hairstyles viewed from behind entwined within the iron slave collars which were used to punish female slaves accused of inducing abortion. Each portrait also displays one of the botanical specimens used for this purpose.